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It is now becoming increasingly clear – despite his statements to the contrary – that Zahid Hamidi intends to claim the office of prime minister for himself should UMNO-BN win the next general election. He persuaded Ismail Sabri to call for early elections on the promise that Ismail could continue as prime minister; now that elections have been called, Zahid is showing his true colours. 

Exercising his power as party president, he has dropped a number of Ismail’s close supporters including Shahidan Kassim and Annuar Musa from contesting under an UMNO ticket. He is trying to stack parliament with men and women who will be loyal to him and him alone. I shed no tears for the likes of Shahidan or Annuar but it is the clearest indication to date of Zahid’s true intentions.  

An UMNO-BN victory would be bad enough; an UMNO-BN victory that results in Zahid becoming prime minister would be an unmitigated disaster. 

If you examine his record in office, it will become abundantly clear that he has never been known to be good at anything other than exploiting racial or religious sentiment to climb the political ladder. There’s no evidence, despite his many years in public office, that he’s a good leader or administrator or that he even has a grasp of the economic challenges facing the nation.

He claims to fight for “bangsa, agama dan negara” but together with Najib Tun Razak and others, he presided over the most corrupt government in our history. Billions were looted in the name of defending the race and upholding the faith.

Anyone with integrity, for example, would have been horrified by the 1MDB scandal and Najib’s abuse of power. Instead, Zahid defended him and tried to cover up the whole affair. Even after Najib had exhausted all legal avenues of appeal against his conviction and was driven off to prison to begin his sentence, Zahid still defended him. In my view, that makes him complicit in one of the most despicable and sordid events in our history. It marks him as a man unperturbed by large-scale corruption and abuse of power.

What’s more, this man who aspires to become our next prime minister is himself facing 87 different criminal charges for corruption, money laundering and abuse of power. Some 40 of those charges were dismissed recently without him being asked to enter his defence, but the attorney-general is appealing so it is far from over. 

Whatever it is, he knows that if he is found guilty, he could end up with a long prison term. It is one of the reasons why he insisted on having early elections despite the tremendous burden it would impose upon the people given that it is being held during our notorious monsoon season. 

If Zahid wins, he will get to appoint the next attorney-general, the same attorney-general who will be prosecuting him in the name of the people. Few doubt that if that happens, all the charges against him will be quickly dropped on some technicality or other? He let slip his true intentions when he recently warned his BN colleagues that if they lose, many more of them could end up in jail. 

And that’s what this election is really about. He is not fighting for “bangsa, agama dan negara”; this is about saving himself and his political cronies.

After decades of UMNO-BN rule, our political culture has become so permissive and corrupt that even a convicted criminal thinks that it is acceptable for him to sit in parliament. Now we are being asked to endorse a man who shouldn’t even be running for elected office given the serious criminal charges against him. It would be a sad day for Malaysia if such a man ends up in Putrajaya as our prime minister,

And so, I ask you: is this the man you want to see become our next prime minister? 

If you, like me, think he is not fit for that most important of all elected positions in our nation, you have it in your power to stop him by simply denying UMNO-BN your vote in whatever constituency you are in.

And don’t stop there; go one step further by supporting Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail in his quest to defeat Zahid in the Bagan Datuk parliamentary constituency. Tawfik, a good and decent man, a man who has stood fast against corruption, injustice and intolerance, is now up against the might of the entire UMNO-BN machinery. 

Tawfik is standing up for all of us; don’t let him stand alone. Please do whatever you can – support him financially, campaign for him, encourage your family and friends in Bagan Datuk to vote for him.

This is our moment in time. We can make a difference. And it starts by decisively repudiating Zahid Hamidi and UMNO-BN on November 19.

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 4th November 2022]