KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 — The sacking of former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar and former Selangor chapter chief Tan Sri Noh Omar from the party on Friday looks to strengthen party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s grip on power in the party, according to analysts.
Senior Fellow of Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun said Zahid’s power in the party is already quite sizable but the recent decision would only serve to strengthen it.
“It means Umno will revert to its old self with party patronage being the rule of the day,” he told Malay Mail.
Another analyst, Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, said the sacking is a stern warning by Zahid to party members that he will brook no dissent or challenge to his leadership.
The associate director at analytical firm Vriens & Partners said Khairy and Noh were used as examples of a purge within the party after the general elections.
“Other leaders remaining like Ismail Sabri will have to weigh their options before they decide what to do next,” he said, referring to vice-president and former prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
He said it was Zahid’s view that the purge will ensure party loyalty and that the direction of party leadership is aligned ahead of the party polls in the next two months.
Zahid previously faced opposition for steering the party into joining the coalition government with Pakatan Harapan (PH), Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah — despite the previous party resolution rejecting cooperation with PH chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the pact’s component DAP.
Meanwhile, University of Malaya sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi concurred that the sacking will strengthen the party in its preparations for the upcoming state polls in six states.
He said the party divisions will now be more harmonious as compared to previously.
“The suspension and sacking announced yesterday is only the first phase of purging by Umno, there are still more to be purged to ensure Umno is free from betrayals from within its members,” he said.
He drew similarities between this sacking to the sacking of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and the sacking of Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Zuraida Kamaruddin and Chua Tian Chang (known as Tian Chua) from PKR.
“PKR and Bersatu did the same thing to purge their respective parties so Umno is now doing the same to purge the party so that there are no enemies within the party,” he said.
However, Shazwan warned that this purging will likely impact support for the party in terms of credibility.
“Detractors will use this to drive home allegations of Umno being tainted with Zahid’s iron grip over the party,” he said.
On Friday, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan announced the sacking of former Selangor Umno chief Tan Sri Noh Omar and former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin as party members due to alleged breaches of party discipline according to Umno’s constitution.
Umno also imposed a six-year suspension of party rights on Shahril Hamdan, former vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Maulizan Bujang and Datuk Seri Mohd Salim Sharif.
Umno also sacked 42 other members for alleged offences such as being independent candidates, candidates of non-Barisan Nasional parties and helping rival parties in the 15th general election; namely five from the Pasir Gudang division, nine from the Putrajaya division, two from the Tanjung Karang division and 26 from Pahang.