Umno President Death Race

Used to be a huge deal, the Umno general assembly, but this season RTM is busier showing the World Cup.

Everyday #MalaysiaBaru offers political writers enough fuel power a space rocket, and at this rate, all the way to Pluto.

Hitherto, in 72 years of existence, a total of *four men have ever challenged for the Umno presidency, otherwise incumbents or the anointed ones win without a contest.

The all so famous “Umno” no contest culture.

Today, ** seven men dare to defy the culture, and vie for the overall leadership.

Acting president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Gua Musang division chief Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a regular Umno member, blogger Rahmat Azim Abdul Aziz and in the eleventh hour, right at nomination deadline, youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

Bagan Datoh, Gua Musang & Rembau

In pole position, Zahid Hamidi

Rahmat’s defeat is near certainty, or even if his nomination will be accepted, but the main trio’s contrasting features is made for TV.

But who are these three men, set to lead the opposition in whatever shape it remains after Umno elects on June 30?

Don’t forget, if the victor succeeds in his mission, he’d be prime minister in four years.

Zahid Hamidi, the Sheriff. Urged on by the more strident and grassroots of the party, because of his more modest upbringing in and around the rice belt on the Perak-Selangor coast. From being a permanent Anwar Ibrahim supporter in the aftermath of his master’s Umno dismissal; to the confines of an ISA detainee courtesy of Mahathir Mohamad; renewed in the traditions of “Maoist reform camps”, charting a course up in the party again by displaying firm support for the Umno way; becoming Najib’s pick to replace the expelled Muhyiddin Yassin as deputy president despite the ex-pm having the choice of his own cousin Hishammuddin Hussein; and hurled to become acting president when Najib resigned in response to Umno disgraced at the general election; NOW, he stands alone, to contest with history against him. Umno, loves its bluebloods.

One more time, why not says Tengku Razaleigh.

***Tengku Razaleigh, at 83, must have thought the mad moments in his political career were behind him. The Kelantan prince’s decision to enter the fray may have more to do with Zahid assuming the mantle of unchallenged winner rather than the tantalising prospect of squaring up against Mahathir Mohamad. Thirty years ago, Razaleigh was convinced he won the Umno election but cheated of it by Mahathir. The courts agreed to his assessment of stink when it banned Umno, forcing the entry of Umno Baru and Semangat 46. Razaleigh’s gamble came close in the 1990 General Election and succumbed thereafter. Humiliated and outdone by Mahathir, he ate humble pie to apply into Mahathir’s Umno Baru. Since then he has stayed under the radar as a loyal MP to Mahathir, Abdullah Badawi and Najib.

And now, purely on a resume, bloodline and longevity, the granduncle to the Agong seeks to lead the largest party in Parliament, for now.

Defeat means political retirement. He has run his course.

Can’t wait, no more, the youth chief. Khairy Jamaluddin.

Khairy Jamaluddin must have had quite the Saturday night, deciding. Perhaps seeing debutants Iceland hold off two-time champions and strong contender Argentina in the World Cup last night, offered the former sports and youth ministry second-wind to upsize from the vice-presidency intentions to the highest office in the party.

The former special officer to Abdullah Badawi and still son-in-law to the former pm, has had a colourful run in the party. Eighteen years, the journey in brief, labelled the “real power” behind the fifth prime minister; exchanged jabs with Mahathir and Anwar for their criticism of the Badawi government; refused a ministerial position after clinching the Umno youth chief post; handed the sports ministry post-GE 2013 which was cue to support Najib unflinchingly; and, NOW, an attempt to lead Umno to break from it’s feudal culture.

Defeat will certainly set him back inside the party, and perhaps years in the wilderness.

What would hold sway, Zahid’s plainness, Razaleigh’s cultural pedigree or Khairy’s age?

On your marks, get set…

A two weeks of speculations, denounciations and promises begin.

Unsurprisingly, in Umno, cash is still king, but will any of the candidates forego that attitude, to feed the beast?

It is too late, but Umno should have considered a run-off election if no candidate secures more than 50% of the votes.

Right now, there is a risk one of the three wins as first past the post but no majority support. A minority president to rebuild a combustive party lacking funds is a recipe for grand failure. Maybe the first past the post is finally about to bugger Umno for a change after it utilised it for national power for decades.

Still, for the framers, who’d have guessed a four-way fight for Umno president? Really, before May 9, who would have?

*Initially listed as two, but actually there were four, two of them in 1951, against Abdul Rahman.

**Initially listed as four, latest information points to seven challengers.

***One of the two ever to challenge a sitting Umno president. The other being the Umno quiz mainstay, Sulaiman Palestine. CM Yusof and Ahmad Fuad (PAS Yang DiPertua in 1951 too) contested against Abdul Rahman who was not incumbent but the anointed candidate from the established order.

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