2020-07-29 11:59:22  2315620
What now after guilty verdict? Politically that is

By Mohsin Abdullah

When supporters of Datuk Seri Najib Razak who were waiting outside the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex received news that the former prime minister had been found guilty of all seven charges related to the RM42 million SRC case, they swarmed the front gate to air their discontentment.

The group chanted "Lepaskan Bossku" calling for Najib to be freed.

"Bossku" is Najib's popular nickname.

And there were also shouts of "Bubar, bubar, bubar parlimen". Obviously the group wanted the Perikatan Nasional government to dissolve the Parliament to pave the way for a snap election.

Why? What has a snap election anything to do with freeing Najib? And even if a snap election is held anytime soon, Najib cannot contest naturally.

Could it be that the group believes that in the event of a snap poll, Umno or should it be Muafakat Nasional, would come out victorious to rule the country, and by becoming government something can be done to free Najib?

I am no mind reader. Hence I do not know what the supporters had in mind when they called for snap election.

But calling for snap election has always been the "mantra' of Umno and PAS for that matter. Umno especially, has been very vocal in wanting for election to be held as soon as possible despite they being in the Perikatan Nasional government.

Both parties are confident of clinching victory. However, it must be said that their call for snap election was made before the July 28 verdict on Najib.

Now that the Najib SRC verdict is out, what will Umno do? Despite his current situation and other court charges he is facing, Najib is still influential in Umno.

A day before the Kuala Lumpur High Court decision, Reuters quoted Adib Zalkapli, Malaysia director at political risk consultancy BowerGroupAsia, as saying, "A guilty verdict would be unacceptable to Umno and may further weaken Muhyiddin Yassin's administration or lead to snap polls."

But one thing is for sure. The guilty verdict would boost, if not already, Muhyiddin's credibility with the public.

And according to a political observer, the prime minister can lay claim that the "anti-graft drive which Pakatan Harapan started is continuing under his premiership".

Reuters quoted a source close to Umno and another close to Muhyiddin as saying Najib's camp in Umno could withdraw its support for the prime minister because of the guilty verdict. And a source close to Muhyiddin, according to Reuters, has admitted "there is a real threat".

However, the observer I quoted earlier has a different view as he feels there is little or nothing Najib & Co can do.

Still, Najib's camp apart, Umno itself can pull the plug off to force a snap election, considering the slimmest of margin Muhyiddin's government holds in the Parliament. And Umno will be banking on PAS to abide considering their pact in Muafakat Nasional.

And true enough Umno has decided against being a component of Perikatan Nasional. In other words, the party will not join Perikatan Nasional even if the coalition is officially registered.

Instead, Umno will strengthen its pact with PAS in Muafakat Nasional, along with BN component parties (MCA,MIC and PBRS or Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah).

At the time of writing, PAS has not yet come up with its reaction, but political observers expect the party to follow Umno's way.

According to Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, despite the decision not to be a component of Perikatan Nasional, Umno will still support the PN government led by Muhyiddin.

That would mean Umno leaders who are in government as ministers and deputy ministers and what-not will remain in the Muhyiddin administration. But the big question is: will Umno (in particular) and PAS contest against Perikatan Nasional candidates, especially Bersatu's, come GE15, snap polls or otherwise?

But Zahid claimed that Muhyiddin had met BN MPs on Wednesday (July 28) to communicate his (Muhyiddin's) wish for Bersatu to be part of Muafakat Nasional.

"I will leave it to the Muafakat Nasional committee to study whether Bersatu's request further strengthens Muafakat in the interest of the rakyat and country," Zahid was quoted as saying.

However, Bersatu supreme council member Datuk Seri Redzuan Md Yusof has denied that Muhyiddin requested to bring Bersatu into Muafakat Nasional.

"Muhyiddin never made the request to join Muafakat. We were invited to join the political coalition between Umno and PAS," he said.

But he also said the Bersatu supreme council had agreed to accept the invitation and had given the mandate to Muhyiddin to join Muafakat Nasional based on the invitation.

Bear in mind, as pointed out by Ilham Center CEO Azlan Zainal, that Umno and PAS have always been very confident of winning big in Malay-majority constituencies come general elections without Muhyiddin's Bersatu.

Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, another director with BowerGroupAsia, nonetheless has expected Najib's guilty verdict to "clear the way for Umno and Muhyiddin to accelerate their cooperation in the highly anticipated snap election, as Najib has been the main protagonist in the party against the PM and Perikatan Nasional."

However, when met by reporters after Najib's guilty verdict was delivered, Zahid said "definitely there is something that Umno will do".

Is Umno not wanting to join Perikatan Nasional what Zahid was referring to?

No matter the point is, request or invited, Bersatu wants to join Muafakat Nasional based on the remarks made by Redzuan. And based on what Zahid has said, whether Bersatu is accepted has not yet been decided.

But there's one more thing: If you recall, Umno has "invited" Muhyiddin to come back to the party.

Azlan of Ilham Center reminds us that "up till now there are no indications that Muhyiddin is rejecting the invitation".

But it's no secret that there are sections within Umno that are against the idea of Muhyiddin rejoining the Umno fold.

To say the political climate is heating up is an understatement!

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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