Sunday, September 14, 2008

A face-saving exit maneuvre by Zaid Ibrahim?

Zaid Ibrahim was once found guilty by UMNO disciplinary council and suspended from UMNO due to alleged money politics (read “corruption”) in his quest to become Kota Bharu UMNO division chief. Pak Lah saved him and selected him to contest the Kota Bharu seat in 2004 general election.

Zaid Ibrahim was not selected to defend the Kota Bharu Parliamentary seat in 8 March 2008 general election. He would surely have lost, should he be selected to defend the seat. Again, Pak Lah (probably upon advice by Khairy) saved Zaid, and appointed him as Senator and the de facto Law Minister. As I said before, one of Pak Lah’s mistakes was to appoint people who stayed at home during the battle (or rather, in the case of Zaid, he was allegedly abroad during the general election), and left the battling soldiers without meaningful portfolios in the cabinet.

As payback, Zaid has been defending Pak Lah at every opportunity, and he has also been vocal in attacking Pak Lah’s detractors. He suggested to Pak Lah to openly apologise for the government’s handling of 1988 Judicial Crisis; aimed at faulting Mahathir.

Zaid was also quick in asking for disciplinary actions to be taken against other UMNO politicians who attacked Pah Lah’s leadership. When Mukhriz rebuked Zaid in Parliament a few months ago, Zaid promptly asked for disciplinary action to be taken against Mukhriz. Nothing happened. When Muhyiddin called for a quicker transition plan, Zaid was even quicker in asking for Muhyiddin to quit or be sacked from the cabinet.

Zaid has gone relatively quite since the Bar Council’s forum on conversion to Islam. May be he is one of the “liberal” Muslims who supported the forum. Never mind that the forum served to undermine the position of Islam and Muslims, and the words uttered during the forum really tested the patience of the Muslims.

Zaid’s position in the government largely depended on Pak Lah’s support. His own UMNO division in Kota Bharu look set to snub him from the division chief post. Sadly, he cannot even secure the post without resorting to money politics.

On the other hand, Pak Lah's position as PM also looks untenable. He is facing growing calls from senior ranking party officials for him to quit earlier. Now, a few ministers have been questioning various government's decisions. Pak Lah is unable to control his own party. He is also not able to control his own cabinet members. He cannot stop his cabinet members from criticising each other's decisions, because Pak Lah himself is not able to articulate and defend the decisions.

Knowing that his position is rather perilous, I think Zaid will start to engineer his own exit. Today, he openly criticised the goverment's decision to invoke ISA on Raja Petra, Teresa Kok and Tan Hoon Cheng.

Will Pak Lah take Zaid out of his cabinet (together with Muhyiddin)? Or will Zaid quit cabinet on his own accord?

But I do not think that Zaid would want to follow the footsteps of Tunku Aziz, by defecting to DAP. Perhaps he can go up the DAP rank much faster, and still remains a minister should Pakatan rule Malaysia.

[Post-script 17 September 2008: Zaid has quit cabinet citing disagreement on the usage of ISA, and by doing so, left smelling like roses. Next step: Wait for Anwar to woo him. After all, Anwar needs the number, and Zaid is still a Senator]

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