People and issues to watch at Umno's general meeting

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein is defending his Umno vice-presidency and among those said to be eyeing the post are (clockwise from top left) Mr Khairy Jamaluddin , Mr Mahdzir Khalid, Mr Ismail Sabri and Mr Abdul Rahman Dahlan.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein is defending his Umno vice-presidency and among those said to be eyeing the post are (clockwise from top left) Mr Khairy Jamaluddin , Mr Mahdzir Khalid, Mr Ismail Sabri and Mr Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

MEN TO WATCH

A widely whispered issue is the jostling to become one of the three Umno vice-presidents (V-Ps), who are third in line after the party president and deputy president.

One of the V-Ps, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has gone up a notch and is now acting deputy president.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein will defend his V-P post.

The third - Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal - left the party over the financial scandal that embroiled the Umno president, Prime Minister Najib Razak.

A potential V-P aspirant is Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who has indicated he will step down as Umno Youth chief. Other names being bandied about include Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob; Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid; Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan; and possibly Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

Who will become the next Umno Youth chief is unclear as not many in its leadership ranks are widely known to the public.

WOMEN TO WATCH

The party's women's wing has been quite muted in the past few years following the so-called cows-and-condo funding scandal that nearly toppled its chief, Tan Sri Shahrizat Jalil.

All eyes will be on how Ms Shahrizat, a staunch supporter of PM Najib, and her women's wing gear up for the general election.

Meanwhile, the Puteri (Young Women) wing, a dynamic group when it was formed in 2001, also seems to have lost its energy under the current leadership. It was pivotal in getting many rural and urban young women and their family members to register as voters that boosted Umno in the 2004 general election.

Umno has postponed its triennial party elections, which had been due last year, until after the next general election. But there is still plenty of talk about who is rising and what is hot at its annual meeting.

THE DISRUPTER

The most prominent Umno street leader today must surely be Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos, who leads the aggressive Red Shirts group.

The businessman is one of 191 division chiefs, a powerful position. He heads the Sungai Besar division in Selangor.

Datuk Seri Jamal is deeply unpopular with the opposition and political activists as he often disrupts the meetings of those seen as anti-Umno or anti-government. But the Umno ground loves him and is keen to see if any top leader will openly hail him as a hero.

PAS OR FAIL?

Umno and opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) are political allies in everything but name.

Umno has offered olive branches to the Islamic party in the past, which helped weaken opposition ranks.

Will there be more concessions in the pipeline?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'People and issues to watch'. Print Edition | Subscribe