Amid speculations surrounding the new cabinet line-up to be announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today declared that he has chosen to remain as a backbencher in Parliament.
In reiterating support for the new Perikatan Nasional pact, Zahid (photo), as BN chairperson, expressed confidence in Muhyiddin's consideration when appointing new ministers.
"As BN chairperson and Umno president, I offer myself to not be appointed to any cabinet positions.
"I repeat, as BN chairperson and Umno president, I offer myself to not be appointed to any cabinet positions," said the Bagan Datuk MP and Umno division chief in his speech to officiate Umno branch meetings under the division.
"Why didn't you all clap?" the former deputy prime minister quipped as his announcement was met with a brief silence from Umno leaders and members gathered today.
Zahid, however, said he had made several recommendations to Muhyiddin on potential cabinet appointments, taking into account hierarchy within their parties and also the number of MPs in the overall pact.
Concerns were raised that Muhyiddin could end up appointing senior Umno leaders implicated with corruption charges.
However, Zahid today said all of them should be given a chance to clear their names in court.
"Give them a chance to clear their names in court, not by dropping the charges, like what was done by the previous attorney-general," said Zahid, who is facing 47 counts of alleged corruption.
Earlier, Zahid likened Harapan leaders unhappy with Muhyiddin's appointment to a losing football team who insisted that they were victorious, long after the game had ended.
"The losing team tried to re-enter the stadium after the lights have been switched off and all the entrances have been closed.
"They are outside the stadium and they announce that they have scored more goals than us (winning team)," he said.
"We abide by the decision because a referee's decision is final," said Zahid, who alluded to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's decision to appoint Muhyiddin after granting audiences to a majority 222 MPs.
Harapan critics, including from within the Perikatan Nasional pact, had insinuated that any objection to Muhyiddin's appointment was tantamount to questioning the Agong's decision.
On the other hand, several Harapan leaders, including Amanah communications director Khalid Samad, had accused Muhyiddin of misleading the Agong in the actual number of support received from MPs.
Zahid insisted that Umno-BN did not form a "backdoor government" but rather entered the government via new doors which opened following Harapan's downfall.
Appearing to be in high spirits, Zahid told the members that they would soon be able to once again hold their meetings at local community halls, a practise stopped by the previous Harapan administration to prevent abuse of public properties by political parties.
Zahid also said Muhyiddin as prime minister should make his impact felt from as early as the first 100 days, with the focus on restoring various financial aids that were stopped under Harapan's cost-cutting measures.
Since Muhyiddin's appointment, Harapan leaders have indicated that they would move for a vote of no-confidence in Parliament to prove that they have the numbers to back Mahathir.