PETALING JAYA • In an exciting first for the Malaysian political scene, two Umno presidential hopefuls will debate each other just before the party polls.
Veteran Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah will go head-to-head against outgoing Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin in a televised exchange set to be aired on Astro Awani at 9.30pm next Friday.
The party polls will be held a few hours later on June 30, with some 150,000 members in Umno's 191 divisions picking their next batch of leaders.
The 81-year-old Tengku Razaleigh, popularly known as Ku Li and who was finance minister from 1976 to 1984, had challenged the other contenders to a debate.
Mr Khairy, a surprise candidate to the contest, was ready to rumble, saying that it would strengthen democracy in Umno and the country's political landscape.
Four people have entered the race against acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 65, who was promoted to deputy premier by then party president Najib Razak in 2015 and represents a steady ship and the status quo.
Datuk Seri Zahid has assumed the role and responsibilities of party president since Datuk Seri Najib relinquished the role and resigned as Barisan Nasional chairman in the wake of the coalition's loss in the country's general election on May 9.
According to the Facebook page of satellite TV player Astro Awani, viewers can also be a part of the debate as their questions will be aired using the hashtag #DebatAWANI on social media platforms.
The event will also be shown on FB Live and broadcast live over TV on Channel 501 on Astro.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo had earlier said he would be willing to ask RTM to telecast the debate if the candidates wanted it.
Only the identities of three candidates have been made public. The other four contenders are believed to be rank-and-file Umno members, according to local media.
Meanwhile, Mr Zahid indicated that he would not be taking part in the debate.
"We have no intention of following the (American) system where Democratic and Republican parties hold debates among their presidential candidates. This is because our political mould is a 'family' mould," he was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini after attending an event.
"Our party is the biggest party for the Malays, therefore, it is better for us to celebrate our differences on the front porch of our own home (privately)," he told a news conference on Thursday.
Mr Khairy said that should he win the top post, he would make Tengku Razaleigh his chief adviser.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK