PETALING JAYA: Starting this Saturday, Umno members will be voting in the “Third Parliament” after the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.
That is how an analyst has termed the general assembly of the most powerful political party in the country.
More than 350,000 delegates will pick office bearers for Umno and the Youth, Wanita and Puteri wings who will attend the gathering at the PWTC from Dec 2 to Dec 7.
The polls this Saturday for the three wings and on Oct 19 for Umno will be crucial as they will pick leaders likely to play a large part in determining whether the party and Barisan Nasional sink or thrive in the 14th general election.
Those elected will have a mandate of three years until October 2016, but they may hold on to their posts beyond that date as the party is allowed to postpone its polls up to 18 months or close to the end of the Government’s five-year term expiring in May 2018.
They will set the tone on how Umno should reach out to win the hearts and minds of the Malays, particularly youths and urbanites, as well as the other communities.
The outcome of the polls could also lead to changes to the Cabinet line-up to reflect the preference of the party members.
Reshuffling the Cabinet after party polls has been the practice of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to do likewise.
Umno veteran Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Rahman expects the members elected to retain their positions until the next general election.
“In any case, a large portion of the nation’s future leadership will come from this pool of winners. So Malaysians, whether they are Umno members or not, should take interest in the polls,” he said.
Now, 11 of the 32 Cabinet members are from Umno.
The six-cornered contest for the three posts of vice president is keenly followed because all prime ministers of the country, except Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn, held that position.
The attention is all the more intense with Najib and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin being returned unopposed as Umno president and deputy president.
Political analyst Assoc Prof Shaharuddin Badaruddin from Universiti Teknologi Mara says Umno Members of Parliament who are not in the supreme council will consider a seat in the decision-making body a boost to their chances of being selected as a minister.
Members would have a better chance of becoming candidates for GE14 if they were to win a position at the coming party polls, he added.
Among the candidates arousing the most excitement are the 48-year-old Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Paduka Mukhriz Tun Mahathir, who is going for vice president, and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaludddin, who is 37 and defending his post against four challengers.
“Mukhriz and Khairy are the most watched because of their relative youth, which means that their political journey will likely continue into the next decade or even longer,” said Shaharuddin.
A total of 146,500 delegates will vote in the Umno elections, and 220,000 in the Youth, Wanita and Puteri polls.
Two hundred and sixty candidates are vying for seats in the supreme council and for national-level positions in the three wings while 33,012 are contesting division posts.