Umno annual general assembly

Umno general assembly: Top party posts - some open for contest next year, others not

Workers at the Putra World Trade Centre arranging chairs in preparation for the Umno General Assembly that will be held from Dec 5 to 9, 2017.
Workers at the Putra World Trade Centre arranging chairs in preparation for the Umno General Assembly that will be held from Dec 5 to 9, 2017. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Umno's two top posts are unlikely to be contested.

But the rest are open, leading to intense behind-the-scenes jockeying because elected party leaders are as good as guaranteed a Cabinet post.

Signs of this jostling, or clues to the intentions of interested parties, may emerge during the five-day Umno general assembly starting tomorrow.

Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein alluded to this jostling two weeks ago when he said he supported a no-contest proposal for the top two posts - president and deputy president - to maintain party unity.

Otherwise, a situation may arise in which Prime Minister and Umno president Najib Razak and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi find themselves pitted against each other, said Datuk Seri Hishammuddin, or one in which he himself is pitted against Datuk Seri Zahid.

As for the timing of the Malaysian general election, Mr Zahid said on Nov 12 that it will be held "in the next 180 days", which means any time between February and May.

Here are the posts up for grabs at Umno's next internal polls, to be held after the general election next year. The biggest fight will be for four of the senior posts - vice-president (three) and Youth wing chief.

 

At the same time, there will be elections for the 25-member Umno Supreme Council, the highest decision-making body, along with contests for leadership posts in the Wanita (women) and Puteri (young women) wings.

 

The following is the state of play in Umno. But it could change if the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition were to suffer unexpected setbacks in the general election.

PARTY PRESIDENT

Datuk Seri Najib, 64, is not expected to face a challenge after he survived the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

His position was entrenched further with the sacking of his vocal critic, deputy prime minister and deputy party president Muhyiddin Yassin, in July last year, and the resignations of former vice-president Shafie Apdal and former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir.

DEPUTY PRESIDENT

Datuk Seri Zahid, also 64, was a vice-president until he was made acting deputy president after Tan Sri Muhyiddin's sacking. He is now both Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Mr Zahid's official title now, as used in some party documents, is unwieldy: vice-president who is performing as acting deputy president.

He will need to be confirmed as deputy president at the next party polls, and is not likely to face any challenge. Mr Zahid has provided stability to the party by sticking close to Mr Najib in the 1MDB storm.

VICE-PRESIDENTS (THREE)

The post is just one notch below deputy president, but a vice-president might wake up one morning to find himself the country's DPM.

This has happened three times in the past 40 years.

When then Prime Minister Tun Razak Hussein died in 1976, his successor Tun Hussein Onn unexpectedly picked junior vice-president Mahathir Mohamad as his deputy.

In 1998, after Tun Dr Mahathir, who was then Prime Minister, sacked his deputy Anwar Ibrahim, he made the surprise move of picking vice-president Abdullah Badawi, as his second in command, although Mr Najib was the senior vice-president.

Most recently, Mr Najib chose Mr Zahid to be his deputy last year.

For now, Umno has only one vice-president in Mr Hishammuddin, 56, who is Defence Minister and Special Functions Minister.

Mr Hishammuddin, who is also Mr Najib's cousin, is seen as a sure bet to retain his vice-president post, as both Mr Najib and Mr Zahid support him.

This leaves the other two posts to be filled, and at least half a dozen leaders are said to be eyeing them.

One them is believed to be Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, 41, who is the son-in-law of Tun Abdullah, Mr Najib's key ally against his most vocal critic, Dr Mahathir.

Others are Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid, 56; Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, 57; and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan, 52.

YOUTH WING CHIEF

Mr Khairy has said he will be stepping down from the post he has held since 2009.

His deputy Khairul Azwan Harun, 41, who last month led a peaceful protest by two dozen Youth members outside the Singapore High Commission over the Pedra Branca issue, is keen on the top post as it usually comes with a Cabinet position. Mr Khairy is Sports and Youth Minister.

Past chiefs of the Youth wing include Anwar, Mr Najib, Mr Zahid and Mr Hishammuddin.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2017, with the headline 'Top party posts - some open for contest next year, others not'. Print Edition | Subscribe