On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Ku Li sending out fuzzy signals

Razaleigh is certainly well aware  that the task would not be easy. He  may have received the first nomination from
the Tanah Merah division from Kelantan but no one  should expect a sudden avalanche  of support.

The nomination by the Tanah  Merah
division shows there are divisions which were prepared to  defy the leadership advice that  there should be no contest for the  top two party posts..

Last week, the 62-year-old leader hinted that he was prepared to  accept nominations for the Umno  presidency or deputy presidency.

He said he could not run away  from
responsibility in Umno no  matter how
heavy it was so long as  it was within
his capabilities.

Razaleigh is certainly well aware  there
are problems and dissension  within Umno

There are many members who  feel the
party leadership could  have handled
national problems  better.

No one can deny that many are  openly
frustrated at the erosion of  support for
the party among the  Malays.

There is genuine concern, even  among
Umno's critics, about the  increasing
strength of PAS with its  mix of politics
and religion.

Many want directions and answers to regain the party's popularity and
Razaleigh's supporters  are telling their
listeners that their  man can do the job.
Or at least,  show that Umno is prepared
for a  shake-up.

However Razaleigh's predicament would be to convince his listeners that a
change need not necessarily mean disunity and unstability.

There may be pockets of unhappiness but not many Umno members are prepared to
go through  another crisis following Datuk
Seri  Anwar Ibrahim's sacking from  government and Umno.

Those who read Umno well will  see that
many members are suffering from political fatique following the gruelling
general election last year.

Not many are in the mood for a  round of
fight. The momentum, so  far, has been
that most of the 165  divisions prefer a
no-contest situation, as advised by the supreme 

Until Friday, Dr Mahathir and  Abdullah
had already obtained 17  nominations, and
are comfortably  in the lead.

The feedback on the ground, so  far, is
that the trend would continue.

Razaleigh's hope would be in Kelantan and Terengganu. It has been  speculated that as many as 10 of  the 14 divisions in Kelantan will  back him.

By March 31, when his Gua Musang division meets, it would be  clear whether he has sufficient  backing.

If there is a groundswell, then 
Razaleigh can safely said he has to 
accept the sentiments of the divisions.

Assuming that there is not  enough
nominations, there is always the excuse that he has never  say that he wants to contest any  top post.

Razaleigh is shrewd enough not  to commit
himself to anything at  this

Umno may have 2.3mil members  but only
2,000 delegates will decide the fate of the party, and for  that matter, the country.

The contest for the Umno presidency and deputy presidencyis  crucial because the winners traditionally
hold the posts of prime  minister and
deputy prime minister.

There is no need for Razaleigh to  make
any annoucement of seeking  higher

The party has only 165 divisions  after
all and it is quite easy to meet  the
main power brokers.

A large of the 2,000 delegates,  are
automatic delegates, comprising key figures in their respective  divisions.

It is not too difficult for candidates to meet the delegates. But it  is also a disadvantage for potential  challengers like Razaleigh.

By virtue of their positions as  elected
representatives, many of  these division
leaders have their  own self interest and

Abdullah's advantage is that he  is already
a deputy prime minister  and just a step
away from the  prime ministership.

Division leaders would rather  place
their bets on a clear successor no matter what the sentiments  are. That is the reality of politics.

Politicians in power are in a better position to dispense patronage  and Umno grassroots leaders are  certainly aware of this.

The delegateswill have to rely on  their
information and gut feeling  whether the
prince will obtain  enough

No politician worth his saltwould  want to
be with the wrong horse.

In the context of Malaysian politics, there is no place for losers  and no one would want to get  caught in a political cross-fire.

Razaleigh paid a heavy price after he failed to unseat Dr Mahathir  in 1987. The penalty was a decade  in political exile.

But he is in the news again. With  just
two weeks to go before nominations close, the excitement is  fast being built up.

By nominating Razaleigh for the  top two
posts, the Tanah Merah division is cleverly keeping everyone guessing what post
is Razaleigh going to contest if he decides 
to go ahead.

No one should underestimate Razaleigh's stature in attracting support but at
the same time, he must  have also
realised the task of going  against an
entrenched machinery  of the incumbents.

Razaleigh's campaigners would  certainly
wish the move by the  Tanah Merah
division would open  the floodgates of

The division has all the right to  pick
Razaleigh as its choice. Critics who challenge that decision  may unwittingly give  Ku Li's the 

Every ballot from the delegates  is
important and any slip up in  strategy
would be costly.

With Dr Mahathir and Abdullah  already in
the lead, the question  now is how
Razaleigh intends to  turn the

Still, we can expect a dramatic  campaign
all the way until the May  11 general