Umno: Who’s brave enough to compete with Zahid for the presidential post?

02 Jan 2023 10:54am
(From left) Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
(From left) Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

SHAH ALAM - Even though Umno election will take place latest by next May, the question remains whether any leader will be brave enough to go against Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as the President.

This is because, on paper, it seems almost impossible to beat Zahid.

After all, the Bagan Datuk Parliament member (MP) not only has strong support from a majority of state chiefs, grassroots of Umno’s leadership, even from the unity government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

In addition, solid influence and support from seasoned Umno leadership towards Zahid increased when he became the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Rural and Regional Development Minister.

Even so, behind those advantages, it cannot be denied that Umno’s bad reputation during the 15th General Election (GE15) caused a few voices to push the Bagan Datuk MP to surrender his position, or he would face challenges during the party’s election.

Two names expected to compete against Zahid for the number one position during Umno’s election were former Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin and Semberong MP Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Umno Deputy President Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan and three other Vice Presidents Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin and Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid were expected to defend their existing positions and would not dare to go against Zahid.

Political analyst and international relations from Universiti Utara Malaysia Professor Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said he did not deny the possibility that several leaders would challenge Zahid’s position as the President during the party’s election.

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However, Azizuddin said the chances of disrupting Zahid’s position were tough because the Bagan Datuk MP had strong support within the party, including from state chiefs and Umno supreme working council (MKT).

This was because most of the individuals in MKT were in Zahid’s camp, thus, the President’s opponent had been eliminated from MKT for the past few years.

“Additionally, Zahid now holds the DPM and Rural and Regional Development Minister position, so the chances for other leaders to challenge him are a bit tough.

“Besides, I think leaders like KJ (Khairy Jamaluddin) can barely challenge Zahid’s position as the Umno President because he does not have any role in the party, and he is not even a Parliament member.

“KJ used to challenge Zahid when he was still a Parliament member in 2018 but is even harder now because he has no positions and no support from Umno’s leadership.

“This is because the seasoned Umno leaders will make comparisons from the position in the government and who will be the President’s challenger.

“So, the DPM and the Cabinet minister positions held by Zahid give him advantages to maintain his presidency,” he said.

Azizuddin also saw the possibility that Mohamad would not put himself in danger by challenging Zahid’s position, but the Rembau MP has a strong potential to remain as the Umno Deputy President.

“Even though Hishammuddin manage to defend the Semberong Parliamentary seat, it is hard for him to beat Zahid’s position as Umno president because the former Umno Deputy President does not have any position in the party and the government right now.

“Same goes with Ismail Sabri, even though he is a former Prime Minister, but the Bera MP will choose to stay as the Deputy President and will not take the risk to challenge Zahid during this party election,” he said.

Following that, Azizuddin expected fierce competition would focus on the Deputy President position, Vice President and MKT members during the Umno election that needed to be held six months after GE15 ended last Nov 19.

Meanwhile, Umno veteran secretary-general Datuk Mustapha Yaakub said he did not expect many Umno leaders dared to challenge Zahid’s position as the party’s President in the next party election since the Bagan Datuk MP became the DPM and a minister.

Mustapha said even though Zahid did not stop any Umno leaders from challenging his position during the Umno election, maybe only a few leaders would dare to do so.

“If the selection happened before GE15, maybe many people would want to challenge Zahid as the Umno President because he did not have any position in the government, but now he is the DPM, so not many leaders dare to challenge him.

“Even if there are leaders who dare to challenge Zahid’s position, it will be hard for them to win.

“Before this, Zahid said he would not stop anyone who wants to challenge him, but he will still defend the position,” he told Sinar Premium on Sunday.

However, no matter what the analysis or prediction says, everything would be up to the 150,000 Umno representatives from all over the country to decide whether they want to maintain Zahid as the President or choose another individual to bring transformation to the party.