By Mohsin Abdullah
We now know Umno has decided to consider withdrawing support for Perikatan Nasional. This was decided by the party's supreme council political bureau. The decision was announced by Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan via a media statement.
The decision was reached at the political bureau's meeting chaired by party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on the night of Oct 13.
Incidentally, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong earlier in the day to present his case of having "majority support" to take over Putrajaya.
After stating that Umno is considering withdrawing support for PN, Ahmad Maslan's statement went on to say that the party will "set new conditions for the PN government to continue political cooperation through a written agreement that will be implemented as soon as possible".
I take that to mean Umno is threatening PN to "abide by our conditions or we will pull out support".
To Dr Yusri Ibrahim, head of research at Ilham Center, this is not "brave or bold" enough. In short, he had expected more.
I agree. After all, Umno has been making such "threats" all this while, in particular of late, in the midst of dissatisfaction among members that their party is being "bullied" by Muhyiddin-led Bersatu and is playing second fiddle despite having more MPs and state assemblymen in Sabah.
But then Umno has always said their support for Muhyiddin as prime minister would only be until GE15, and the party would have no qualms contesting against Bersatu candidates in the polls.
In a nutshell, Umno has never been keen on PN.
And when Bersatu proposed to admit non-bumiputra members, veteran Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah urged his party's MPs to resign from the cabinet because "Bersatu can no longer be a part of the Malay-Muslim ruling pact supported by the Umno-PAS alliance".
So, Yusri is right when he said he expected more. A stronger and harder stance, said Yusri, would "force Bersatu to negotiate".
But alas, he said the political bureau's decision does not reflect Umno "as a soaring eagle, a shark in the ocean or a tiger in the jungle".
His colleague at Ilham Center, CEO Mohd Azlan Zainal who also sees the Umno statement as not strong and clear enough, said it had nevertheless "unveiled" a much more serious implication.
"Put simply, what Umno said means the Muhyiddin government has fallen because the conditional support as well as new conditions for support have not been agreed", according to Azlan.
Incidentally, at his press conference on Sept 23 to proclaim he had the numbers, Anwar also said the Muhyiddin government had collapsed. And he repeated that following his recent audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Veteran newsman Datuk A Kadir Jasin also said in a Facebook posting that Umno's decision to consider withdrawing support for the PN government showed the Muhyiddin administration is in a difficult position "or has lost its majority support in the Parliament".
As Kadir sees it, "this directly gives credence to Anwar and others that Muhyiddin has lost majority support". Furthermore, according to Kadir, the "majority claimed by Muhyiddin is only in theory and a conjecture, as it has never been tested in the Parliament and Muhyiddin had maneuvered in avoiding it.
"With the withdrawal of support from Umno, the status of the PN government is becoming more uncertain," said Kadir.
Uncertain indeed. And now we are hearing of the possibility of the formation of a "unity government". This cannot be independently verified, though, but such talk came about after the much respected Tengku Razaleigh had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong soon after Anwar.
His political secretary Mohd Lokman Ghani was quoted by Bernama as saying Tengku Razaleigh was summoned for a royal audience in his capacity as the longest serving MP and that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong wanted to hear his opinion on the current political situation in the country.
We are also hearing of talk that Umno could be playing the role of kingmaker to decide if Muhyiddin remains PM or is replaced by Anwar.
Meanwhile, Datuk Dahlan Makmor, former TV political talk show host and former political secretary to DAP's Anthony Loke, opined that Anwar is "in a comfortable position" and should not be brushed off as "other than the route he is taking now, he can also use the Parliament route to achieve his aim".
Ilham's Azlan drew my attention back to the Umno political bureau decision i.e. the part on its pact with PAS – Muafakat Nasional.
The bureau resolved that Umno should propose to the MN steering committee to register Muafakat Nasional as a formal coalition as soon as possible.
As Azlan sees it, Umno is putting pressure on PAS "to come back and stay loyal to Muafakat Nasional and not Perikatan Nasional".
Kadir puts it as Umno giving PAS an ultimatum whether it wants to be with PN or come back to MN.
PAS is seen to be more leaning towards PN rather than MN, especially after the party is roped into the Muhyiddin government despite saying it is part of MN and PN as well.
In response to the Umno decision to reconsider support to PN, PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said his party's position in the PN government remained the same although Umno had shifted its position.
"PAS' stance is to strengthen Muafakat Nasional and defend Perikatan Nasional,"according to Tuan Ibrahim. To me, that sounds like wanting the cake and eating it too.
We are told that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has decided to postpone the audience granted over the next two weeks, including to political leaders, due to COVID-19 related restrictions.
These are interesting times we're in. Or should I say turbulent political weather that we are seeing? We will just have to wait and see when and how it pans out. Now that is stating the obvious, isn't it?
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)