PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - When the new Parliament begins on July 16, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is almost certain to be the opposition leader.
This is after Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the only other opposition party with numbers in Dewan Rakyat, threw its support behind the Bagan Datuk MP for the post.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said he was ready to take up the role of opposition leader in Parliament.
"I have several ideas on how the opposition should function. I will discuss this with fellow MPs," he said.
They are PAS president and Marang MP Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and his party secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan who is the MP for Kota Baru, and Umno's Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said and Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin.
The sources said both Abdul Hadi and Takiyuddin had indicated that they were not keen to take up the position.
"This is not so surprising because PAS doesn't have the numbers. Although the post is reserved for party presidents, usually the one that commands the most number of MPs would likely be selected.
"Abdul Hadi and Takiyuddin have hinted to Umno that Umno should take the lead and going by the conversations among Umno MPs, the position is as good as Dr Ahmad Zahid's," added the sources.
In the 14th General Election, Barisan Nasional won 79 seats while PAS took 18.
However, several of its component parties in Sabah and Sarawak soon left the coalition, leaving Barisan with 57 MPs - 54 from Umno, two from Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and one from Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).
Although Umno suffered further setback when three of its MPs, including former Puteri chief Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, abandoned the party to become independents, it remains the party with the most seats in the opposition bloc.
The sources said Khairy had quietly lobbied for the position even after failing to win the contest for the Umno president post.
"He has not given up but with support from PAS and the fact that Dr Ahmad Zahid is the Umno president, his chances are very slim," they said.
When contacted, Takiyuddin said PAS had no objections to Dr Ahmad Zahid being named the opposition leader.
"By convention, he is to be named the opposition leader and PAS is fine with this," he said.
However, PAS, he said, would propose to Barisan to rotate the post of opposition leaders between them.
Takiyuddin said this was the case in 1971 when former PAS president Tan Sri Mohamad Asri Muda held the post for two years before the Democratic Action Party's Lim Kit Siang assumed the post.