KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — Umno had twice offered Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah the chance to stand as its prime ministerial candidate before nominating its vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, according to a source.
Citing an unnamed source, Malay daily Sinar Harian reported today that the first overture was made by Umno’s political bureau two months ago and again recently, apparently because none of the other leaders in the country’s biggest political party could be highlighted at that time.
“Those who came to see Ku Li include party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, his deputy Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, BN secretary-general Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir, and Datuk Seri Najib Razak,” the source was quoted as saying.
Ku Li is the moniker given to Tengku Razaleigh.
“We were informed that over 40 Umno supreme council members have signed an agreement to hand power to the party president, and decided that there should be only one candidate from the party, which is Ku Li,” the source added.
However, the source said the Umno supreme council met last Tuesday and decided to give the mandate of deciding the Barisan Nasional prime minister candidate to the coalition’s 42 MPs, who subsequently nominated Ismail Sabri, the Bera MP.
“Before this Ku Li was told that the party via the supreme council had finalised the candidate for prime minister, handed over to Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, with Ku Li as the candidate,” the source was quoted saying.
According to the source, Tengku Razaleigh was not angry at Umno’s abrupt decision to change the nominee not see it as a betrayal, “but considered what happened as not being good for the party’s future”.
According to the source, Tengku Razaleigh submitted his statutory declaration on his choice for prime minister to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on August 17, a day before the deadline.
The Gua Musang MP’s choice was reportedly based on the principle of Umno not supporting the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, led by Umno’s political rival Bersatu.
The source claimed that it was only after Tengku Razeleigh’s letter was sent that BN MPs named Ismail Sabri as their sole prime ministerial candidate.
The PN government led by Bersatu’s Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin collapsed last Monday, 17 months after it came to power.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong had yesterday summoned MPs from BN, Bersatu, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and several independents to Istana Negara to reconfirm their support for Ismail Sabri.
Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan told reporters after the royal audience yesterday that Ismail had the support of 114 MPs in the 220 member Dewan Rakyat, which passes the simple majority required to become the next PM.
The other main contender is Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
However, the palace has yet to make a conclusive announcement. The Conference of Rulers is also scheduled to sit this afternoon to discuss this matter.