KUALA LUMPUR - Several Umno chiefs have questioned a decision by its leadership to nominate Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the prime ministerial candidate should the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance win the next general election.
Former Cabinet minister Shahrir Samad said it was premature to name Tan Sri Muhyiddin as PN's next PM candidate when seat negotiations for the next national polls within the alliance have not been settled.
"Did (we) need to resolve the questions of who is the prime minister first? How did everything become backwards?" Tan Sri Shahrir wrote on Facebook on Thursday (July 2) evening. "Don't (we) need to solve first how BN, MN (Muafakat Nasional) and/or PN are to contest in GE-15?" he said.
Umno is a member of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, whose other members are the Malaysian Chinese Association, the Malaysian Indian Congress and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah.
Separately, Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) have a joint political vehicle called Muafakat Nasional (National Consensus), with their leaders meeting regularly to thrash out issues.
Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa on Thursday (July 2) said the two Muafakat parties have agreed to back Mr Muhyiddin as the next premier, in a big boost for the 73-year-old leader.
"During the meeting, we agreed to name him as the prime minister if we win the general election," Mr Annuar said, according to The Star on Thursday. "The message of support will also be conveyed to our members through our own party channels," he said.
The next general election, the 15th GE, is due in 2023 but there is expectation that it could be held this year as PN has a thin majority in Parliament.
Umno adviser Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah disagreed when asked in an interview with Channel News Asia if he believed Umno would continue to support Mr Muhyiddin as the prime minister after the next polls.
"I don't think so. The arrangement in Perikatan Nasional is purely to ensure stability," he said. "When we face the general election, it is a different ball game. Umno will have to get its act together."
Umno vice-president Mohamed Khaled Nordin said on Facebook on Thursday that all issues in PN that were agreed in its meetings "must be brought back to the respective parties to get our support and agreement".
The informal PN alliance is made of Mr Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia with some 20 MPs, a group of 11 MPs formerly from Parti Keadilan Rakyat led by Azmin Ali, Umno (38 MPs), PAS (18 MPs), and several other small factions.
PM Muhyiddin's PN government have faced questions of legitimacy as its total support from MPs has not been tested in a parliamentary vote.
And meanwhile, some leaders of Umno - as the largest PN party - have been agitating to push for more ministerial posts in the four-month old ruling alliance, or to dismiss Mr Muhyiddin's Bersatu as a small party with little grassroots support.
Others in Umno have said that the party and PAS should ditch Mr Muhyiddin's Bersatu as all three Malay-Muslim parties would otherwise be fighting for the same electoral wards in the next general election, as they did in the 2018 polls.
Tengku Razaleigh told CNA: "Bersatu shouldn't come into the picture. They (Umno members) feel it should be just Muafakat - PAS and Umno - along with traditional partners of BN, MCA and MIC.
"Then you won't have much of a problem in terms of allocation of seats".