Analysts: Zahid could still change his mind

POLITICAL analysts have cast doubt that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was “nearing the end of his service as MP” as Zahid could very much change his mind before the next general election, due by 2027.

Political scientist Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said Zahid’s remarks proved that the increasingly explicit calls from “various supposedly friendly sectors” for him to step down as Umno president had not fallen on deaf ears.

However, Oh said Zahid might be trying to deflect some of the “deafening demands” for him to resign. “If the calls subside, he might change his mind,” he told FMT.

Similarly, Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Azmil Tayeb said it is too early to tell whether Zahid will bow out from Bagan Datuk, where he has been the MP since 1995.

“Anything can happen between now and GE16. Zahid’s decision whether to run again or not might also hinge on the status of his court cases,” said Azmil.

Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara said Zahid’s “announcement” is not surprising considering the internal pressure he is facing as Umno president, following the party’s worst election performances in the 15th general election and six state elections in August.

He also pointed out that Zahid barely got re-elected as Bagan Datuk MP in GE15, as he pulled through with just a 348-vote majority over his closest contender, PKR’s Shamsul Iskandar Akin.

Azmi believed that Zahid’s departure as Umno president would do Umno good as fresh faces and a new leadership would take the helm. Zahid’s departure could help Umno recapture Malay voters who switched allegiances to Perikatan Nasional.

He also said Umno leaders sacked or suspended under Zahid’s time, like Khairy Jamaluddin and Shahril Hamdan, could make a comeback to the party.

“With Zahid not at the top of the echelon any more, I guess things should be better for Umno in terms of the comeback of those who have been dismissed or suspended from Umno,” he said.

Oh agreed with Azmi that Zahid’s departure would strengthen Umno. However, he said this might weaken the unity government in turn, as the new Umno leadership may not be keen on working with Pakatan Harapan post-GE16.