Should that be the case, it means Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will be nominated for the two posts. The deputy's post has been left vacant since the expulsion of Datuk
Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Previously, it was assumed that
Abdullah, a moderate and conciliatory figure, would be the sole
candidate for the No.2 position.
But now, word is out that some divisions
are prepared to nominate Tengku
Razaleigh Hamzah for either of the top two posts.
The names of these rebel divisions have been whispered within Umno circles and members are now eagerly waiting for the outcome.
These divisions, according to the
grapevine, are supposedly headed
by those who were not picked as
candidates for the recent general
Razaleigh himself has not said anything
about contesting the party elections. Neither has the Gua Musang division, headed by him, expressed support for the no-contest
He has only indicated to those close to
him that he would travel round the
country to listen to views of the
Still, the Kelantan prince has attracted much media attention, who has been keeping a close watch on his next political move.
Razaleigh needs 50 nominations to
contest the president's post. If he
decides to vie for the deputy's post,
then he only needs 33 nominations.
That will be his first hurdle. Once he
has secured the nominations, he would have to win the support of the 2,000-or-so delegates.
It would not be an easy task. Having a
fighting chance is one thing, but being
confident and comfortable of winning is
However, Razaleigh is taken seriously because he has the stature, the connection and the ability to run a well-organised and well funded campaign
to mount a challenge.
Working against him would be the failure
to win back Kelantan from PAS in the
general election. Should Razaleigh
decide to contest the two top posts, his
detractors would certainly accuse him of
being ungrateful after having being allowed
to rejoin Umno.
Razaleigh quit Umno to form Parti Melayu
Semangat 46 after failing to unseat Dr
Mahathir in the 1987 party polls.
The fate of Umno leaders lies in the
hands of the party delegates. The 165
divisions will each send 12 delegates
(five appointed, seven elected) to Kuala
Lumpur on May 11 to cast their
The division meetings will be held over
the whole of next month. The breakdown
of divisions, according to states, are: Perlis (3), Kedah (15), Perak (23), Penang (11), Selangor (17), Negri Sembilan (7), Malacca (5), Johor (20), Kelantan (14),
Terengganu (8), Pahang (11), Sabah (20),
Labuan (1) and Kuala Lumpur (10).
The number of divisions is based on the
number of parliamentary constituencies
in the peninsula and Sabah.
Umno elections are closely watched
because the party president is usually the country's prime minister. Attention would not be just on the top posts but also the second and third tiers of the Umno leadership.
The main contender for the three
vice-president's posts will be Defence
Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, an
The other incumbents are Abdullah, who will vie for the deputy president's post, and former Selangor Mentri
Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib who announced his decision to defend
However, the Selangor Umno liaison committee has said it would back Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Abu Hassan Omar for a veep post instead of Mat
Still, without the backing of his own
state, no one is writing off Mat Taib at
The other serious challengers are
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid
Albar, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul
Ghani Othman, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
and Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Tan Sri
Mohamed Isa Samad.
This time, an unusually large number of
party leaders have expressed interest in joining the fray. At the last count, there were nine of them.
The focus would be on how the Kubang
Pasu division, led by Dr Mahathir, and
the Kepala Batas division, headed by Abdullah, make their choices for the three veep posts.
It would be particularly tough for
Abdullah if he is challenged by Razaleigh.
The choice of his division for the veep posts could possibly have an impact on
the delivery of votes for him.
Regionalism would be a factor in the
horse-trading of votes. For example, Perak and Sabah have much political clout. The two states, which will send the largest number of delegates, are being courted by the contenders.
Promises would be made and deals struck
between the states and contestants.
Based on sheer numbers, some Sabah
divisions think that Chief Minister
Datuk Osu Sukam deserves a
Umno's 17,000 branches have been meeting
since Jan 16, and will elect delegates
to attend the division meeting next month.
In other words, the choice of the
branches is important. Once the
elected delegates attend the division meeting, they will have a say in the nominations for the elections.
No one can say that grassroots democracy
is not practised in Umno. The party,
which has 2.7 million members, begins
its process of choosing the party leaders
from the villages and ends at the
Putra World Trade Centre in the
Unlike some parties which do not
practise direct elections, one to-one contests are carried out at all levels.
The battle royale is still be two months
away, but the shadow fighting has