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Azmin Ali, the biggest winner by far, so far

COMMENT | Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement of his new cabinet confirms, for those who still doubt it, that the biggest winner of the ‘10 days that shook the nation’ is none other than senior minister Azmin Ali.

Of the four senior ministers appointed in lieu of a deputy prime minister, another is senator Mohd Radzi Jidin (education minister), Azmin’s deputy in his last portfolio as economic affairs minister and a political lightweight in the PM’s weak Bersatu party.

The GPS Sarawakian senior minister (Fadillah Yusof – infrastructure development) poses no threat, while the previous head of the opposition in Najib Abdul Razak’s and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s absence, Ismail Sabri Yaakob (defence), hardly inspires much broad confidence, even within his own factionalised Umno party.

For those in the know, this is a no-brainer as Azmin has been working on his ‘anyone but Anwar’ (ABA) project for years, ever since he fell from grace with Anwar, and secured the Selangor palace’s backing to seize power in Selangor.

United by the ABA agenda, Azmin’s co-conspirator from early on, Hamzah Zainuddin, jumped the Najib ship into Bersatu after GE14. No prize for guessing who got him the menacing home ministry.

Knowing full well that the ABA cause would have limited appeal, he shrewdly packaged it as part of a new Malay-Muslim agenda ostensibly against the DAP, but especially against Anwar, and for PAS, against the ‘renegade’ Amanah as well.

This eventually won over PM8 (eighth prime minister) and secured the defections from Pakatan Harapan and forged the broader coalition which Muhyiddin nominally leads. It is too soon to write the definitive account of what transpired, but it has emerged that Muhyiddin was only recruited to the cause late last year.

Azmin has proved to be a superb strategist as well as master tactician, adjusting pragmatically to changing situations typically to mobilise around issues with much broader appeal.

For years, he was the loyal Anwar protégé, whom Anwar trusted, protected and even promoted over the heads of capable rivals such as Mohamad Ezam Nor and others, who then abandoned Anwar for greener pastures.

His rift with Anwar probably began in...

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