Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been playing a cautious political game during the months of a tense battle of wills but in one swift move, he seems to have outmanoeuvred Umno.
(FMT) – Analysts say that if Muhyiddin’s endgame strategy is right, he will be able to checkmate his rivals in Umno by the time the emergency he has just called ends in August.
Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Pawi said PPBM seems to have trapped Umno by being one step ahead of it, especially in the last one week.
“With no parliamentary session until August, Umno has no room to move. This took place just as some Umno MPs were planning to withdraw their support for Muhyiddin,” he told FMT.
He said that despite their years of experience in politics, Umno leaders failed to guess Muhyiddin’s next move in this political game of chess.
“Umno was slow to act despite a strong push from the grassroots to cut ties with PPBM. It was clear the grassroots were pushing for action,” he said.
Umno, he said, went to the extent of helping Muhyiddin by supporting Budget 2021 in Parliament, even tricking the opposition that Umno was on their side.
Umno did get some concessions in the Budget and thus may have been lulled into the belief that it could get Muhyiddin to agree to certain issues it wanted resolved. That may explain why Umno was slow to cut ties with PPBM.
But the delay gave Muhyiddin the upper hand to strengthen Perikatan Nasional, including by wooing MPs from other parties. “He may also try to talk to Amanah, Warisan or PKR MPs. He has the time,” said Awang Azman.
By strengthening PN, he said, Muhyiddin would be able to avoid elections till 2023.
As the prime minister tries to consolidate his governing coalition, according to Awang Azman, the corruption cases of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and ex-prime minister Najib Razak are expected to continue.
“This can be seen as a message to others not to challenge PPBM and to woo and calm the situation among those in Umno who are against him,” he added.
Wrong moves by Umno
Meanwhile, an Umno source said his party had been overcautious about cutting ties with PPBM.
“When Machang MP (Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub) announced his withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin, he should have done it with a few others.
“Umno MPs who wanted to withdraw their support were slow, giving time for Muhyiddin to act,” he told FMT.
On Jan 12, former Cabinet minister Nazri Aziz also withdrew his support for Muhyiddin, three days after Ahmad Jazlan’s announcement.
But it was too late. Muhyiddin had already announced a two-week MCO on Jan 11. It started yesterday.
On Jan 12, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on Muhyiddin’s request, proclaimed a state of emergency until Aug 1. There will be no parliamentary sitting or election during the emergency period.
The source said Umno was also deeply split, resulting in party leaders being unable to reach a consensus on what to do.
“If Umno had been united, they would have either withdrawn support for Muhyiddin at the end of last year or worked with the opposition to take over Putrajaya,” the source added.
Economists have warned that another round of the MCO may see the economy sliding down to a worse state than in 2020, and that the declaration of emergency may chase more foreign investors away to neighbouring Indonesia.