The battle for the post of UMNO's Deputy President is no longer to be a two cornered fight, but has now attracted other aspirants to join the fry, namely, Datuk Mohd Ali Rustan, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib and Dato Seri Rais Yatim. I personally view this as an interesting development in the propagation of a healthy and vibrant democratic electoral process in UMNO, which over the years has been relegated to an election based of patronage and money politics.
Although UMNO has been divided in the manner in which the post of the two most senior positions i.e. President and Deputy President should be contested, many had openly criticised the way in which the two incumbents i.e. Pak Lah and Najib had worked out their succession plan. Veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is himself a contender for the Presidency, has said that the two top posts 'should not be exclusive to the incumbents'. This had also caused dissatisfaction among the BN component parties who felt that they ought to be consulted to the change of leadership. Other UMNO big-wigs have expressed similar views, demanding that the right to elect the President and Deputy President be left to the grass-roots. Whatever be the choices, the conduct of this year's UMNO elections will be closely watched, and should serve as an example for future elections.
The three new contenders have established themselves in UMNO, and certainly are no pushovers. What its important is whether they have the correct credentials to this 'awe inspiring' post. Popularity alone isn't enough, and the examples of statesmanship which has been shown by both Pak Lah and Mahathir should form the 'basis of choice' during the elections. As an outsider in politics, I am certainly able to pick up the strength and weaknesses of Pak Lah and Mahathir, and to make a reasonable choice as to who among the vying contenders is ideally suited for the post.
As I have declared in my earlier posting ' Zahid vs Muhyiddin – Who Wins', I do not know both Zahid and Muhyiddin well enough, and my assessment of them is based on what I have read and heard of them. Likewise, my assessment of the three new contenders is based on the same knowledge. And of the three new contenders, my bet is on Rais Yatim as the most suitable, based on his long experience in state and federal positions, as well as his outstanding command of both the Malay and English language. Having a PhD in law is a huge credit to Rais, and this makes him well ahead of Mohd Ali Rustam and Muhammad Taib in their academic prowess; the latter having claimed that he could not understand English in the 'Australian airport episode' some years ago.
So clearly, this now leaves Zahid, Muhyiddin and Rais by my own judgment And who among this three will win the coveted post of UMNO's Deputy President is best left to your individual judgment.
And with this new development, what is therefore the position of Najib in the whole scheme of things. Will he now position himself for the top post, and to be contending against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, assuming that Pak Lah decides to throw in the towel? And if Pak Lah so decides in a few days time to bid for the post, what will happen to Najib then? Will we see a three cornered fight for the post of President, or will Najib be contend to just contest for the Deputy President? These are indeed puzzling questions to a puzzled UMNO.
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