Selling the leadership change bet

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The question most people have on their minds but are afraid to ask is whether or not Home Minister, Dato Seri Zahid Hamidi, can succeed Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak? The follow up question is how soon can this take place?

The relationship between the Number One and Number Two in the country has seen many more acrimonious types of fallout than any smooth transition. In fact, one of the smoothest relationships between Number One and Number Two was when Mr Najib was Deputy Prime Minister, and his predecessor, Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was Prime Minister. In front of him, Najib steadfastly supported Mr Badawi until the fateful UMNO Supreme Council meeting in late 2008 that saw him bringing forward his resignation after being attacked from multiple sides. (Rafidah Aziz was one of the vocal ones in demanding Pak Lah’s resignation).

Could Najib fall victim to such manoeuvre? Could the UMNO Supreme Council or the UMNO General Assembly suddenly rise in revolt against the Prime Minister?

In terms of chances, there is practically no chance for a Supreme Council style revolt. 2/3rd of the members would make in on the Prime Minister’s Best Friends Forever (BFF) shortlist. Though he may have ruffled the Prime Minister’s feathers by talking about the importance of integrity in leadership, there is also no chance for an open revolt from Dato Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. The only chance would be an unprecedented uprising at the UMNO General Assembly, which is scheduled to convene in a week’s time.

This however is extremely unlikely, something like 100 to 1 odds, the same odds being quoted for Kayne West to become President of the United States in 2020. Whilst there are rumours of discontent with China’s increasing involvement in the country’s economic affairs, there isn’t anything remotely close to an organised rebellion. More ever, apart from Tun Dr Mahathir’s opposition, there has been no public show of mass Malay discontentment towards the Prime Minister. The sniping and backchat, while there, is relegated to the background.

In fact, the only way I see Mr Najib getting himself booted out of the UMNO Presidency is if he uses the platform to continue to attack Tun Dr Mahathir. Or if a brave/suicidal UMNO delegate, uses the podium to attack the Prime Minister, and then, only if the audience responds with a standing ovation.

Well the above three scenarios depend on a combination of one or more of the following three things. For the first scenario it depends on Mr Najib making the worst possible speech of his lifetime, which is highly unlikely. I doubt his speech writers are so stupid to continue to attack Tun Dr Mahathir after last year’s speech criticising Dr Mahathir through the 20 year ERL concession was not widely appreciated by the audience. On the second scenario, it requires an UMNO delegate to make the gamble of his life. And they don’t make men like that anymore, especially not in UMNO land. The third would require a feeling of palpable unease towards the leadership by the UMNO grassroots. After winning 2 out of the 2 recent by-elections, no such unease is apparent.

So by the process of elimination, Mr Najib’s fate looks quite well indeed. Savvy investors would sell the bet, capture the one percent premium and wait for the Ringgit to crash past RM 4.80 before seriously buying the story that a change in leadership is imminent.

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