Slim chance for Umno and PAS presidents to get ministerial posts in Muhyiddin's Cabinet, say analysts

Malaysia's prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin signs a document on his first day at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya on March 2, 2020. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO /MALAYSIA'S DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION/ WAZARI WAZIR

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's new Perikatan Nasional (PN) Cabinet line-up will be announced next week and analysts predict that the presidents of Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) -Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang - are unlikely to be given ministerial positions.

This is because Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will want to be seen walking the talk, having promised a Cabinet with integrity and clean governance in his inaugural speech as the Prime Minister.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Azmil Tayeb said if Umno had truly learnt its lesson in the last general election, it would not push for leaders who were "perceived to be tainted" to hold any Cabinet posts.

He said it was also important for Mr Muhyiddin to reassure Malaysians who perceive PN as Malay-centric, since it comprises bumiputera-based parties except for three MPs from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

"Muhyiddin has a huge task to bridge that gap (between races) and convince the public that this is not Barisan Nasional 2.0," said Mr Azmil, a senior lecturer with USM's School of Social Sciences.

He added that the main accusation by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Pakatan Harapan that Mr Muhyiddin had joined hands with Umno "kleptocrats" would also weigh heavily on the eighth Prime Minister.

This is mainly when he decides on the possible candidates from Umno, despite them having much experience as Barisan Nasional ministers.

But Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan said it was unfair to point only to Umno whenever the term "tainted leaders" is bandied about in politics.

"We are not prophets who can be completely clean. Nevertheless, we leave it to the prerogative of the Prime Minister to choose his Cabinet," said Datuk Seri Mohamad.

Mr Azmil said Mr Muhyiddin showed he had the upper hand when Zahid had to contend with a contempt of court warning on the first day Mr Muhyiddin clocked into office.The statement from the Prime Minister's Office that there was no meeting between Zahid and the Prime Minister was telling.

"It's obvious that Zahid isn't being allowed to pull any strings here... It is a conundrum for Muhyiddin - as Umno is the biggest bloc - and if he is really sincere as he said in his speech, he must prove his political will and not appoint any party leader currently being charged in court, even if that person claims he is innocent until proven guilty," said Mr Azmil.

He also said that as much as PAS offered a wide array of professionals and technocrats for Cabinet posts, Mr Muhyiddin must ensure that those from the party could be ministers for all races and religions.

"They may be Western-educated but still harbour theological ideas which can create problems if they were to push their Islamist agendas in public," said Mr Azmil.

Another political commentator, Mr Mazlan Ali from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said based on the Prime Minister's inaugural speech, the Umno president would not be appointed to the Cabinet.

However, Mr Mazlan felt that Mr Hadi had a chance, as he was not facing any charges in court.

But Mr Hadi himself has said he is not keen to sit in the Cabinet and has reportedly conveyed his feelings to Mr Muhyiddin.

"He prefers to be an adviser to the government and ombudsman rather than take on a ministerial post," said a PAS source.

The source said the Marang MP also wanted to show that PAS had the nation's interests at heart and was not power-crazy.

Another source said key individuals who helped usher in the new government would likely be given ministerial positions - a departure from previous practices, where most Cabinet positions were apportioned based on the number of MPs from the respective component parties.

Among those in the list, said the source, were Mr Mohamad, former opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri and Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa.

In PAS, the list will likely comprise PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar and secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan.

"If they are not MPs, they can be made senators and then be appointed as ministers, " said the source.

The source added that professionals and corporate players would be appointed to the Cabinet after being made senators.

It is also believed that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will get what it bargained for in the new Cabinet.

"GPS did not ask for a specific post but asked for the economy of Sarawak to be taken care of," said the source, predicting that it would most likely be given a major economic portfolio.

The source also said a few former Pakatan Harapan ministers currently with Perikatan had asked to remain at their former ministries to ensure the continuity of the programmes they were executing prior to the change of government.

"We did not change the government because Pakatan was all bad but because we needed to stabilise politically, improve the government's delivery to the rakyat and improve the economy.

"I have many programmes in my ministry, which if I pass on to someone new, may not be carried out as I planned earlier.

"But I am also okay if I am not re-appointed to the Cabinet," said a former Pakatan minister.

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