KUALA LUMPUR: As the country’s top politicians made their way through Istana Negara’s arching ornate gates yesterday, only one was observed to have made it twice to the palace steps.
Kelantan prince and Gua Musang member of parliament, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 83, first arrived at 10.45am for an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to broach the latest development concerning the formation of a new government.
Tengku Razaleigh, also known by his moniker Ku Li, later left the palace in his chauffeured dark blue Mercedes at noon, as reporters were rushing to attend a briefing by the Datuk Paduka Bijaya Diraja at Istana Negara’s management office.
However, the Umno advisory council chairman returned at 3.17pm and left at 4pm.
He did not stop to meet reporters and calls to his aide to confirm or reveal the discussions he had with the king went unanswered.
His visits to the palace had fuelled speculation of his possible candidacy as the next prime minister of a new coalition government, following Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent resignation from the post, which effectively collapsed the Pakatan Harapan federal administration.
As a senior politician and the longest-serving MP of Gua Musang and arguably in the country, Tengku Razaleigh had been touted as a prime ministerial candidate following party electoral bouts against Dr Mahathir when the latter was the Umno president.
One source from Umno said Tengku Razaleigh’s audiences with the king were due to his in-depth knowledge of the Malay psyche as well as the socio-construct of the country’s largest electorate.
“Well, anything goes. You will never know. Also, perhaps the Agong wants his advice on certain matters, from one royal to another, after meeting other parliamentarians.”
The former finance minister and corporate leader has remained a well-respected figure even after the fallout with Dr Mahathir after a party election in 1987, which saw his exit from Umno to form a splinter Semangat 46 two years later.
His latest bid for Umno’s presidency was in 2018. Despite much fanfare over his run, he lost to Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Following Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pas’ joint decision to propose for a snap election, a BN source also said due to Tengku Razaleigh’s reputation, leadership and political experience, he could be the best prime minister candidate after Dr Mahathir.
“I will not rule out that he can be listed as a candidate. He is well-liked and respected in the party.
“He might not have won party presidential elections, but his potential as a prime minister is a different story.”