KUALA LUMPUR: Following a tumultuous weekend for Umno that saw dissenters sacked or suspended, the party is now training its sights on party elections, where a heated battle for the vice-presidency is on the cards.
Throwing their hats into the ring are Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who will be defending his post, and supreme council members Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani (attending council member) and Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.
It is understood that former Johor menteri besar Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad is also eyeing the post.
Insiders believe Sabah Umno leader Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin could be a surprise candidate, while others theorise that he could join the fray as a “spoiler”.
None of the other vice-president incumbents — Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid — have expressed a desire to defend their posts.
Johari is the wildcard among the names vying for the three vice-president posts. His thumping victory in the fight for the Titiwangsa parliamentary seat in the last general election has given him a huge boost in grassroots support and confidence, according to feelers on the ground.
Johari’s upward trajectory has raised the question of which candidates deemed to be close allies of Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will fall by the wayside.
“Zambry, Azalina and Asyraf are the only known pro-president candidates in the party. Khaled is expected to defend his post successfully, given his good ties with party leaders and supporters.
“Johari is close to the party president. He is one of the leaders whom Zahid will take advice from. More importantly, Johari has been meticulous in garnering support on the ground.
“He has told his supporters that change (for the better) will happen in Umno and he is preparing for it,” a source said.
The source disputed claims that Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had planned to contest the vice-president post before they were respectively sacked and suspended from the party.
“That is not true. These two never planned to run for the vice-presidency. Efforts to have the said candidates run for the posts had been in the works for quite sometime.
“Friday’s outcome did not influence the nomination of candidates in the party polls,” said another source.
As for the three wings — Wanita, Youth and Puteri — several names have cropped up, but the Wanita leadership is expected to remain status quo.
Umno Youth assistant secretary Datuk Hasmuni Hassan is seeking to take over the wing chief position from Asyraf Wajdi.
Despite his defeat to Perikatan Nasional’s Ku Abdul Rahman Ku Ismail in the Kubang Pasu parliamentary seat contest in the last general election, Hasmuni might have a clear path.
“Hasmuni has received the president’s mandate to run for the post. The only thing he has to do now is get the right No. 2 as his teammate. He is looking at youth figures like Umno supreme council member (appointed) Datuk Arman Azha Abu Hanifah, among others,” said a party insider from Kedah.
Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi had in several closed-door meetings expressed his wish to contest the Youth chief post.
“But after what happened to his uncle Hishammuddin, Onn has decided to lay low about his ambition,” a party insider said.
The contest for the Wanita chief post is not expected to shake up the party leadership.
A source said Wanita chief Datuk Seri Noraini Ahmad had been in talks with Azalina, who had wanted to run for the wing chief post again after pulling out from the race in 2013.
“Noraini wanted to defend the seat. To prevent any dissension among members, Azalina agreed to back down again. A deal was struck and now Azalina will run for the vice-presidency.”
Puteri, an overlooked wing, might see notable names vying to be chief. They include the wing’s exco member, Dr Masliha Harun, and Melaka’s Rim assemblyman Datuk Khaidirah Abu Zahar.
“Masliha is popular among the grassroots and Khaidirah is a political blue blood. It is likely they will work together as a team.”
The Umno supreme council set Feb 1 for wing and branch elections. Candidate registration for central and division posts will open on Feb 13 and close at 5pm on Feb 26. NST
Tengku Zafrul vying for Umno supreme council seat
KUALA LUMPUR: International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz has announced his intention to contest one of the 25 seats in the Umno Supreme Council.
Tengku Zafrul told Astro Awani that such a move is significant to build his political foundation and ensure his long-term success.
“I humbly offer myself to contest for a seat in the Umno Supreme Council with the hopes that I contribute further to the development of the party,” he said.
He added that the country’s changing political landscape, which has become more dynamic, has created the opportunity for a healthy competition in the party polls.
“Umno is an experienced political outfit comprised of leaders who are mature in facing the challenges in the country’s political landscape.