KUALA LUMPUR: Umno is on high alert as the friction between the party’s top two leaders has reached a “worrying level” and allies close to both president Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin are now scrambling to “manage” the fray, party sources said.
Umno sources told FMT that the recent distribution of posters calling for Muhyiddin to succeed Najib as prime minister in the latter’s home state of Johor indicated “disturbing developments” on a feud that could threaten the party’s preparations for what may be the ruling coalition’s toughest election yet.
The party’s Johor chapter has denied publishing the posters which read “we want Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as PM before the 13th general election” and has lodged a police report.
But while FMT’s source said the poster could be an attempt by the opposition to drive a deeper wedge between the Umno president and his deputy, it cannot hide the friction between them.
“The fight is not only detrimental to Najib but the party as a whole… but it is now being managed,” said one party source familiar with the subject.
One of the key figures in the move to patch the cracks is Najib’s close confidant and “golf buddy”, Mohamed Al-Amin Abdul Majid, the current chairman of SME Corporation who is also a business partner of Muhyiddin’s son Adlan Berhan.
Links to both the leaders will give him access to unite Najib and Muhyiddin and avoid any bloodletting that could harm Umno’s chances at the polls.
Whether or not Mohamed Al-Amin can manage the rift is uncertain, said the same source but what is clear is Muhyiddin’s growing “impatience” on what may be seen as Najib’s weakness in tackling the opposition’s surging influence.
“He [Muhyiddin] is growing impatient,” said the Umno official but stopped short of explaining.
Political analysts said Najib’s plans for economic and political reforms including the phasing out of pro-Bumiputera policies have made him unpopular among Umno’s conservative powerbase who view the prime minister’s liberal initiatives as pandering to non-Malay demands.
Meanwhile, Muhyiddin, seen as a leader from the Mahathir administration era characterised by its zero-tolerance for dissent, is now considered more suitable to lead a party that is growingly dragged to the far right.
His contradicting stand on several key policies like the expansion on vernacular education and a review of the alleged net-stifling amendment to the Evidence Act have also drawn accusations that the deputy prime minister is planning to unseat Najib.
There are also allegations made by the opposition that the leaked official documents on the RM1.8 billion Ampang LRT line extension project scandal involving a company allegedly linked to Najib were provided by Muhyiddin’s men to incriminate the prime minister.
Both Najib and Muhyiddin had dismissed talks of a rift and said the allegations were fabricated to benefit rivals.
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