PETALING JAYA: Although once touted as a favourite to win a supreme council seat in the upcoming Umno polls, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah admits that he now feels like an "underdog".
In an interview with The Star Online, the former deputy minister said he gave himself only a slim chance, now that the new voting system, in which some 150,000 party members will cast their votes simultaneously, is in place.
"Back in 2008, everyone had a fair chance. It was just a matter of how far you would go to meet with the delegates personally and get their support," he said.
With the new system, "visibility" of the candidates was the most important factor in winning, especially if they are Cabinet members, he added.
"For me, ministers have a clear advantage because normally, ministers are usually the favourites, and then the deputies," he said, recalling when he was the Deputy Higher Education Minister.
"It was easier for me to win the seat then. But I think this time around, I will probably just get sympathy votes," he laughed.
Asked why he was still contesting for a seat despite knowing his chances, Saifuddin said he still has something to offer to Umno.
"I believe I have the abilities to strengthen Barisan Nasional, especially regaining the support from the middle ground voters," he said.
The middle ground, said Saifuddin, included youths, academicians, the well-educated, professionals, urban voters and civil society.
"They form about 30 per cent of the electorate and the number is growing. I have some background in civil society, so I have some kind of understanding of what the middle ground is thinking," he said.
Umno elections for supreme council seats and the positions of president, deputy president and vice-presidents will be held on Oct 19.