Too little too late – this sums up Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s outburst of anger at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for trying to assume the mantle of kingmaker in the ongoing Umno elections.
“Who is he? He has left Umno but he still issues orders to members of Umno. The party does not need to take orders from anyone who is no longer a member of the party. He is trying to create a rift and incite anger and hatred. What is wrong with people who work with me? He is trying to teach people to hate one another, ‘’ said Abdullah in Kota Kinabalu last night.
He was referring to a recent posting by Dr Mahathir on his blog, where the former prime minister called on Umno members to reject its politicians who had supported Abdullah, describing them as toadies.
This was not the first time that Dr Mahathir has trained his guns on ministers or other Umno politicians who have stood by Abdullah, but this was the first time that he is doing so from a position of strength.
When he began attacking Abdullah, his advisors and supporters in the Cabinet such as Datuk Nazri Aziz, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in 2006 the PM was firmly entrenched in power and Dr Mahathir was the political has been.
But since October 8 – the day Abdullah announced his decision not to contest the party presidency their roles have been reversed. He may have left Umno, but within the ruling party Dr Mahathir is viewed as the strongman; the kingmaker, the soon-to-installed power behind the throne.
This party only understands power and the scent of power is leading them to Dr Mahathir.
Once again, he is getting more space in newspaper and Umno politicians – who treated him like a political leper before – are scrambling to kiss his hand.
In contrast, Abdullah sealed his fate and that of his supporters in the party the day he told the world that he was retiring in March. The swing away from those associated with him has been tremendous, forcing a few of them to borrow a play from the book of Judas just to stay alive.
Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin has been huffing and puffing to secure enough nominations to contest the top position in the youth wing.
He needs eight more nominations to sneak past the 39 mark but his nemesis Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir is in a different league, having already obtained 60 nominations.
Datuk Ahmad Zaki Zahid, Abdullah’s special officer, retained his position as the head of Umno Youth in Putrajaya by an eyelash, a far cry from the party election in 2004.
A member of the infamous Fourth Floor, he faced the difficult task of convincing division members that the retirement of his boss would not impact on his effectiveness.
His challenger mounted a strong campaign anchored on the simple but unmistakable fact that with the umbrella of support from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ahmad Zaki was yesterday’s news.
In a deeper hole is Tourism Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said. Dr Mahathir has singled her out for special mention, labeling her as one of Abdullah’s staunch defenders, a kiss of death in these times.
The former prime minister in his blog predicted that Azalina would be rejected by party members in her bid to climb up the political ladder in Umno, noting that the current mood in the party was to reward those who were strident in their criticism of Abdullah.
That was why Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Rafidah Aziz and Datuk Shafie Apdal were snaring nominations easily, he explained. He is only partially correct.
There is little doubt that Muhyiddin – a certainty for the deputy president’s position – is benefitting from the perception that he forced Abdullah out of office.
Rafidah will be unchallenged as Wanita Umno chief as part of a transition plan with Datuk Shahrizat Jalil while Shafie is securing nominations for one of the three vice-president’s slots because of the perception that he has been endorsed by his close friend, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Having said that, anecdotal evidence shows that the tide is moving strongly against Abdullah’s supporters in the party.
The PM’s last night attempted to hold the line against this sentiment.
He also attacked Muhyiddin for calling for party elections to be held earlier than March 2009. “Is he so impatient to become the deputy prime minister? That is, if he gets the support. What is the meaning of all of this? I am not happy with this, ‘’ he said, adding that he was troubled by attempts to get Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Ali Rustam to withdraw from contesting the deputy president’s position.
Abdullah said that he would not be pushed out of office before his completed his reforms.
“I will be ready to go when my work is done, ‘’ he said.
Brave words but one can’t help feeling that the last word on this episode will still go to Dr Mahathir.
- The Malaysian Insider