With all the news about PM Najib going around, many of us might have missed out on the political storm brewing up north in Kedah involving a pretty high-profile UMNO leader.
Who this person is will shock you.
Number 3 completely blew our minds!
That’s right! It’s Dr. Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz Mahathir!
The fifth of seven children, Mukhriz is currently the Menteri Besar of Kedah – something that we were shamefully unaware of (Sorry). But where all the drama comes in is that there’s been an ongoing campaign to replace Mukhriz – carried out by his OWN party members in UMNO!
MINI-UPDATE: After two weeks of battling people within his own party, Mukhriz decided to step down from his position as Menteri Besar. His replacement is Kedah UMNO Deputy Chief Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah – the guy who led the campaign against him.
As to why this happened, let’s address the big pink elephant in your mind:
“This is becos he’s Mahathir’s son, right???”
With the knowledge that he’s Mahathir’s son, most of us would have arrived at the general conclusion that he’s being kicked out of his post because of the ongoing “feud” between Dr. M and PM Najib, with Mukhriz taking some of the shots fired between the two.
We’re not making this up too… when we looked into Google Trends for what Malaysians were searching for the day news that Najib was cleared of all 1MDB/RM2.6 billion related offenses was announced, we found what people typed after the term “Najib Razak” wasn’t “1MDB” or “Innocence” but rather….
Considering that these screencaps were taken at least 12 hours after the news broke, it indicates that interest in the Najib-Mukhriz-Mahathir drama still far outweighed interest in Najib’s innocence.
However, the thing is that PM Najib isn’t involved in this… at least not directly.
Officially, the ones actually calling for Mukhriz to step down from his post are actually the UMNO Kedah division heads themselves. Led by Kedah UMNO Deputy Chief Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, the group had recently acquired a majority vote (19 out of 36) from state government representatives needed to oust Mukhriz. PM Najib only became involved when Ahmad Bashah asked for his assistance in dealing with the problem, since Mukhriz has repeatedly refused to step down.
PM Najib had apparently tried to negotiate a peaceful settlement whereby Mukhriz would be appointed as a deputy minister in the Federal Cabinet if he stepped down, but this was refused.
So why is UMNO Kedah so gian to get rid of Mukhriz?
Officially, Mukhriz is an unpopular, short-sighted, part-time Menteri Besar
Okayla, we’re well aware that there’s a lot of spin involved in all of this because, politics. Just to give you an overall idea of what’s happening, we’ll be listing down the three official reasons for the loss of confidence in Mukhriz in red, along with rebuttals on why they’re a nasty pack of lies in blue. So just like the Matrix movie, you pick la whether you’d prefer to swallow the red pill or the blue pill. Just like….
Eh sorry, wrong Neo. Anyways, back to topic:
1. He’s not doing anything to improve Kedah.
Apparently, since his appointment in 2013, none of the promises Mukhriz has made to develop the state were carried out:
“It is proven that Mukhriz has failed to continue with various plans to lead Kedah towards the betterment of all of its people. In fact, all of the dreams he spoke about previously appear to be just that, dreams.” – Ahmad Yahaya, Kedah PAS information chief, as quoted by The Rakyat Post.
However, it’s also been reported that Putrajaya had prevented some of Mukhriz’s efforts to develop Kedah – most notably with a cut in budget allocation to the state. Mukhriz’s (arguably) biggest promise to Kedahans for a new airport in Kulim was apparently delayed due to the federal government taking their time with his proposal. ← meaning he actually tried to carry these plans out.
2. He’s unfamiliar with the Kedah political scene and can’t connect with the people
It’s been noted that Mukhriz didn’t move his entire family to Kedah when he became Menteri Besar, meaning that he would spend workdays (Sunday-Thursday) in Kedah and travel back to KL to be with his family for the weekend. This becomes a problem because, as a leader of the state, he’s seen as not being able to properly connect with Kedahans – that his time in Kedah is solely for “work”.
He’s also seen as a newbie in the Kedah political scene, so he has to work extra hard to lead local UMNO divisions and their grassroots members (which we’ll get into in a bit). However, he’s been accused of being a “lone ranger“, preferring to bring in his own officials from KL who are equally unfamiliar with the local political scene – effectively distancing himself from party leaders and the grassroots members.
It also seems that Mukhriz’s lack of support among ordinary Kedahans was exaggerated, with video footage showing a huge turnout of supporters…
And most local Kedahans, UMNO grassroots members, and even Opposition leaders actually gave pretty favorable opinions on him when interviewed, such as:
“I saw for myself how the people of Kedah love Mukhriz … This is one leader who is willing to sleep in a pondok. Has any past leader done the same? – Maj Anuar Abdul Hamid, UMNO grassroots leader, as quoted by The Malaysian Insider.
3. He has no strategy to keep Kedahans voting BN
Being that PAS is a strong contender in Kedah, Mukhriz has been accused of not doing enough to ensure that Kedahans would support BN in the 2018 General Elections, mostly for the same reasons mentioned above. These shortcomings led to 17 UMNO and 2 MCA reps signing a document (Statutory Declaration) to replace him.
At least one UMNO guy was pressured into signing it. Kota Seputeh assemblyman Datuk Abu Hassan Sarif tearfully confessed that he was hunted down and forced to support the campaign against Mukhriz – like LITERALLY hunted!
“Saya lari, saya hilang, hampir-hampir jatuh di laut, diburu semata-mata nak dapatkan sesuatu daripada saya,” – Datuk Abu Hassan Sarif, as quoted by The Malaysian Insider.
Also, the two MCA reps who supposedly signed denied the claim when asked by reporters.
Whoah. UMNO seems to be having some serious internal conflict
On the surface, it seems like the Kedah krisis is largely an internal power struggle. But an increasing number of analysts and politicians are pointing to someone else pulling the strings from higher up.
Who this person is will sho- They’re claiming that it’s PM Najib himself.
It’s no secret that Dr. M is probably PM Najib’s most outspoken critic that hasn’t been slapped with a lawsuit, and so Mukhriz kena NOT just because he’s Mahathir’s son, but also because he himself has criticized Najib over 1MDB and asked the grassroots to fight for reform within UMNO – essentially going against PM Najib’s “loyalty first” policy that got Muhyiddin replaced at Deputy Prime Minister.
Although PM Najib was supposedly called in to help resolve the problem in Kedah, it appears that he’s trying to do it by replacing Mukhriz, even holding private meetings with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Kedah as well as Mukhriz supporters within the party to convince them to sign the statutory declaration.
Unfortunately though, it seems that not everyone is on board with this plan, as Najib and the anti-Mukhriz group failed to convince the rest of UMNO Kedah that a change was necessary:
“The episode on Friday not only shamed the 14 mutineers but, even worse, shamed the Prime Minister who had been all gung-ho on removing Mukhriz as Kedah Menteri Besar… Najib had no choice but to leave the meeting on Friday, by the backdoor, when it was clear that it began as a failure and was going to end badly…” – Shahbudin Husin, Political Analyst, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today.
According to Shahbudin, this isn’t the first time PM Najib used the back door. He’d also encountered a similar situation just before the infamous cabinet reshuffle.
At the end of the day, who loses out the most?
To be honest, everything you’ve read so far only scratches the surface of what’s happening in Kedah. There’s also the whole matter of how badly this will affect UMNO, if Mukhriz will win over the public like Muhyiddin did when he got kicked out, or even how the whole thing might be resolved. But in all the dingdongbingbong, many of us are forgetting that the ones who’ve gotten the short end of the stick are…
The local Kedahans.
Unlike the Perak Constitutional Crisis or (to a lesser extent) the Selangor MB Crisis, what’s happening in Kedah looks to be purely an internal party affair. Mukhriz has so far kept himself scandal-free, and if Kedahans are doing badly under his leadership, then, as commenter Scott Ng points out, the media should shoulder an equal amount of blame for not reporting it.
Mukhriz is credited as being one of the major reasons why UMNO won Kedah from PAS in the last General Elections. IF it’s true that his plans to develop the state is being stalled on purpose, then the added blow of seeing a popular leader being taken out by force would make us wonder what the point is in voting when a democratically-elected candidate can be removed over personal daddy issues?
Many analysts and even UMNO insiders have predicted that Mukhriz wouldn’t be able to survive the revolt against him, so stepping down would have been the most peaceful solution to the crisis. And to Mukhriz’s credit, he fought a pretty good fight – even delivering a nice little zinger at the end of it, because when asked who would replace him as MB, his response was:
“Ahmad Bashah Md Hanapiah. I hope he won’t sleep well.” – Mukhriz Mahathir, as quoted by Malaysiakini.
Oh wait, it wasn’t a zinger. He was “menghayati” the Kedah Sultan’s speech:
But like we said, we aren’t in Kedah so all we’re getting are reports and opinions. How did uKedahgaiz feel about Mukhriz’s stint as MB? Let us know in the comments!