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
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
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