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Saturday September 14, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday September 14, 2013 MYT 9:08:03 AM
by razak ahmad AND mazwin nik anis
KUALA LUMPUR: Umno’s three vice-presidents have formed a “pact” to work together to defend their positions at the coming party polls.
Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he and fellow vice-presidential incumbents Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Datuk Shafie Apdal have come to an understanding as they felt they had been working well together.
“I think our chemistry is at the level of ‘very comfortable’. We also feel that both the party president and deputy president are comfortable with us,” Dr Ahmad Zahid said in an interview.
Asked whether this meant they had formed a “team” for the party election next month, Dr Ahmad Zahid said what was agreed to was “only an understanding among the incumbents that we work together”.
At the same time, Dr Ahmad Zahid said he welcomed any aspirant who wished to contest the third highest position in the party, which is now shaping into a five-way race.
Apart from the three incumbents, former Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad have declared their intention to run.
“The more the merrier. I think if there is a six-corner fight, even better,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid. However, he declined to identify whom he felt could be the sixth candidate to join the race for the vice-presidency.
“If someone new were to join, why not? It is up to the delegates and we will have to respect their decision,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid, 60.
The last time that vice-presidential candidates had a formal alliance was in the 1993 party elections.
Known as “Team Wawasan”, the candidates, comprising Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib won the three vice-presidential positions.
In the 2000 Umno election, Dr Ahmad Zahid received the fourth highest number of votes among the candidates contesting the Umno supreme council position.
He came in at second place in the following party election in 2004 when he defended his position.
At the 2009 party election, Dr Ahmad Zahid emerged first in a seven-way fight for the three vice-president posts.
As the current Home Minister, his “tough” stance on crime has burnished his reputation with some members viewing him as among the favourite senior party leaders.
“I have been lucky. But my past performance is not at all a reflection of how the party grassroots feel about me now because we can never really read them and they are very intelligent in deciding who to vote for,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
He said one possible reason for his strong performance in the past three party elections was that he is not seen by members as a “seasonal politician”.
“I service the party all the time. When the responsibility is given to me by the party I will do my best to provide the best service throughout my tenure.”
Asked whether he agreed with the view among some that at least one of the three vice-presidents should be elected from among a non-ministerial member of Umno so that he or she could concentrate solely on the party, Dr Ahmad Zahid said:
“This is subjective because there are reasons to justify the entry of non-ministers into the race but I feel someone must be within the Government in order to contribute and translate the vision of the party in the Government.
“At the same time, we cannot and should not deny if there is demand from the delegates for someone from outside the Government to be elected as vice-president.”
Asked how he would react if some of his supporters tried to push him to vie for a higher position in the future, Dr Ahmad Zahid said:
“That decision will be mine (to make) but I will always follow the leadership’s path and direction on this matter. I’m not ambitious. My objective is to strengthen the party. I have been trained to sincerely carry out whatever responsibility is entrusted to me.”
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Politics, Umno Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
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