Fighting for political survival

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 28 Jun 2018

Several top Umno leaders will be fighting for their political survival as they face challenge to their divisional chief seats at the party polls on Saturday.

While former party president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and pre­sidential candidate Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will remain as the Pekan and Bagan Datuk heads following no-contest there, Umno chiefs in some states are feeling the heat.

Many of them will be challenged for the first time in the most keenly contested party polls that come hot on the heels of the bruising 14th General Election, which saw the Umno-led Barisan Nasional being ousted by Pakatan Harapan.

“This is Umno’s democracy at its best. We allow members to contest any post they wish – even the presidency,” said a party insider.

In the aftermath of GE14, Umno also reversed its no-contest decision for its top two posts, allowing competition for all positions.

Interestingly, two facts stand out – despite having to fight it out at the divisional level, some of these big names are also vying for top posts in the party; and their contenders are relative unknowns. But political observers have said not to underestimate the underdogs.

“It’s a different ball game now after the general election. You can’t predict how the grassroots will vote. It is no longer about wanting a leader with a big name or political clout because their influence won’t go far now that Barisan is no longer the government,” one said.

Negri Sembilan Umno chief Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan is facing Mohamad Rais Zainuddin for the post of Rembau division head while his Johor counterpart, Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin, is being challenged by unknown Mohd Khairulfadhlan Mohd Dzurri in Pasir Gudang.

Melaka Umno chief Datuk Seri Idris Haron is squaring off against Mohamad Ali Mohamad for the Tangga Batu chief post.

Mohamad is also eyeing the Umno deputy presidency while Khaled is gunning for one of the three vice-president posts and Idris, a supreme council seat.

Terengganu Umno chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman, Pahang’s Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and Perlis’ Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim are also being challenged.

Ahmad Razif, Adnan and Shahi­dan are defending their Kuala Ne­­rus, Bentong and Arau chief posts.

Even party stalwart and candidate for Umno presidency Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who has led Gua Musang for decades, is facing a challenge from Bazlan Baharuddin.

Other prominent Umno leaders being challenged include Sungai Besar’s Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos, Kemaman chief and former Terengganu mentri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said and Kalabakan’s Datuk Seri Ghapur Salleh.

Titiwangsa Umno chief and former second finance minister Datuk Seri Johari Ghani will face Ismail Musa, while Baling chief Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim is being taken on by Shamsuddin Nor Shaari, and former deputy minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed is up against Datuk Tengku Putra Haron Aminurrashid Tengku Hamid Jumat, who is an ordinary member of the Pulai division.

In Sabah, Umno liaison chief Tan Sri Musa Aman will not seek re-election for his Libaran seat which he has held for more than 20 years.

Two former MPs of the constituency – Datuk Akbarkhan Abdul Rahman and Datuk Juslie Ajiro – will seek support to head the division in the post-Musa era.

The Semporna division chief post, which has been vacant since Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal broke away from Umno in 2016, will see a straight fight between Ba­­sa­­li Tarireh and Ramlee Marhaban.

News that 74 of the 191 division chiefs had won uncontested raised questions about democracy in the party and the seriousness of its members to see change and revival.

“What are they talking about? More than half of the divisions – 117 to be exact – will see contest for the top post. Isn’t this democratic enough? Doesn’t this prove our desire for change?” said a leader.

True, some senior leaders who have led their divisions for a number of years such as Jeli’s Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Putrajaya’s Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Lumut’s Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir, Tanjung Karang’s Tan Sri Noh Omar, Padang Rengas’ Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman of Pasir Salak, Datuk Musa Sheikh Fadzir of Bukit Mertajam and Cheras Umno chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Alhabshe will remain in their position for another term.

But an Umno official pointed out that around 30% of the 74 division chiefs are not defending their post to make way for change.

“However, in these divisions, there was only one candidate, so when nominations closed, the post was won uncontested,” he said.

Among divisions whose chiefs retired but the top post did not see any contest were Kubang Pasu, Kuala Langat, Lembah Pantai, Kota Tinggi, Putatan and Tawau.

While some divisions have seen leadership change hands peacefully, Saturday’s fight will determine whether the desire for change is “clear and present” in Umno.

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