The most important political development in town has very little to do with Anwar Ibrahim. Instead, it is about the dynamics of the relationship between the Prime Minister and his deputy and how they approach the UMNO party elections that are set to commence with the divisional meetings on 9 October.
Neither Abdullah Ahmad Badawi nor Najib Tun Razak wants to fight the other. They know that this would be disastrous for the party and even prove to be the final nail in its coffin. Both want to honour the spirit, if no longer the exact letter, of the transition plan which originally intended for Najib to take over the premiership and party presidency in June 2010. It was a deal brokered directly by the two men and endorsed by the party Supreme Council.
But things began to fall apart after the loss at the Permatang Pauh by-election even though this had very little to do with Abdullah's leadership (in fact it was seen more as a battle between Anwar Ibrahim and Najib). There was a resurgence of dissent within party ranks led by vice president, Muhyiddin Yassin, and egged on by Mahathir Mohamed from the outside. This was an opportunity to renew the pressure on Abdullah to go now rather than later. But the spark that lit the fire was Najib's statement a couple of weeks ago that although he was committed to the transition plan, he would also leave it to the divisions to decide whether they want to support it as well. Politics is all about signaling. For many in the party, that statement by Najib was a signal that he would contest the presidency against Abdullah.