Sons of former PMs in the limelight: Analysis by the Star’s Columnist Joceline Tan, 20 Okt. 2013.
There was a great deal of excitement at Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s dazzling win as the top Umno vice-president but it was the two sons of two former Prime Ministers who provided the thrilling finish.
DATUK Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was the man of the moment last night. There was an incredible energy around the top Umno vice-president when he arrived at the fifth floor of the PWTC at about 11pm. Everyone loves a winner and he was swamped by supporters and the media as he emerged from the lift. Zahid’s dazzling win at this prestigious level in the Umno hierarchy means that he is now one of the most powerful figures in the party.
The win is not just about enhancing his status in the party but it is also an acknowledgement of the Home Minister’s tough approach on crime and security and his unapologetic defence of Malay and religious issues. At press time, insiders from his campaign team said he had secured support from 165 divisions and it looks like he will score a near clean sweep of the 191 divisions by the time everything is over. He has torn through every division like a tornado and only Jempol in Negri Sembilan did not give him the endorsement. But the thriller of the evening was the way the two sons of two former Prime Ministers were going almost neck-and-neck from start to finish.
Unofficial results indicated that Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has pipped Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir to the finishing tape.
The Defence Minister has narrowly survived one of the toughest fights of his political career. From the close call, it appears that Hishammuddin, 52, and Mukhriz, 48, were battling over the same turf. Their appeal was among those who want to see younger faces among the higher echelon. Hishammuddin had the edge as the incumbent. He also had the support of the top Umno leaders including his cousin and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. There was a tremendous push for him by the Umno top guns in the final stages of the campaign and that helped him breast the tape.
Mukhriz had a few things going against him, namely the Umno establishment who wanted to stick with the existing formula. He was fighting the Big Boys Club who felt that he was still new and should wait his turn while he proved himself in administrating Kedah. Despite denials from various quarters it was evident there was an order from high up to maintain the status quo. Some called it the “arahan 123” (123 order) to keep Zahid, Hishammuddin and Shafie up there.
Mukhriz’s supporters will probably cry foul and the bloggers who are rooting for him will be going full blast at the unfair treatment. But that is politics and Hishammuddin just happens to have more influential and powerful alliances than his opponent. Besides, Najib was comfortable with the current line-up, warts and all. The three winners go back a long way with him and that is the way he likes it. The Kedah Mentri Besar will just have to live to fight another day. He will have to rely on his track record in Kedah to make his way up the ladder. His campaign was also free of money politics and cynics said that had probably contributed to the state of affairs. It is a fact that money makes the world go around in Umno politics.
But losing at this point will set him back in his rivalry against Khairy Jamaluddin who won a second term as Umno Youth chief in a decisive fashion. The other big surprise of the day was the strong showing by Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal. He was close on the heels of Zahid as the results started coming in and at one stage, he was only about 10 divisions behind. The Sabah politician was on a roll. It seems like Umno wants to send a strong signal that Sabah is a valued friend of the party and also to say thank you for delivering all those seats in the general election. But within the party, many said that Shafie’s win was also a result of his personality as a down-to-earth politician who is always smiling regardless of whether he is happy or stressed out. His portfolio as Rural and Regional Development Minister also carries weight among the Umno grassroots.
The other two candidates Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad could barely garner 20 divisions between them. This, despite the enthusiastic reception wherever they went. It was a stark testimony that the delegates want to give their votes to sunrise politicians rather than those in their sunset years. They were two hugely likeable and popular figures but Ali, in particular, was seriously handicapped by the fact that he lost in the general election and is without a government post.
Zahid was unable to spend as much time on the campaign trail as his team would have liked him to. Shortly after nominations day last month, he flew off to Melbourne where his son was seeking follow-up treatment for injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident around the time of the general election. His son was in a coma for a while after that but is slowly recovering. All eyes will be on Zahid over the next three years. Will he be content to stay at the top of the VP heap or will he suffer from the usual three-year itch to move up?
During he campaign trail, almost 90% of the pro-UMNO bloggers were hot on the heels of one particular VP candidate, Dato’ Paduka Mukhriz Mahathir. He was the candidate to pick, beside Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zaid Hamidi and Dato’ Sei Mohd. Shafie Afdal. Dato’ Seri Hhamuddin, who was considered the weakest of the incumbent VPs was already a lame duck candidate considering his records holding past cabinet portfolios, especially the Education Ministry. He was alleged to have been very indecisive. So when candidate Mukhriz joined the race and with the backing of social media in full force he was almost certain to defeat the third incumbent Hishamuddin. On the last day Mukhriz’s father, the former PM gave his sn a 50-50 chance of wrestling the last VP slot. And he almost did it as he was only nine-vote Divisions away. However, Win is still a win, even though you win by the narrowest of one-vote margin. Hishamuddin got the slot and Mukhriz has to eat humble pie.
Some said Mukhriz was late to enter the contest. He did not have sufficient time to campaign. However much later he was said to be confident that he had a 60% chance of winning. Meanwhile candidate Ahmad Zahid had to stop his campaign when he had to rush to Australia to be with his son for some reasons or another. And there were those who forwarded a conspiracy theory that there was a hidden hand to ensure Mukhriz should not be given to win the slot. And many bloggers have hinted that that it has got to do with the current UMNO Youth Chief.
But then again, there were some who suggested that it was not that Mukhriz was that influential or strong but Hishamuddin was too indecisive. Hishamuddin was most of the time only gave warning “tidak teragak-agak” in his actions and nothing followed suit. Was hishamuddin playing safe?
Probably some Kedahans or even pro-UMNO bloggers mentioned the fact that it was Mukhriz that wrestled the state from the Opposition. But this was questionable because the Kedah UMNO then had worked tirelessly to ensure Kedah be taken back. At that tme the UMNO liasion chairman was a different individual. It was in fact a collective effort by Kedah UMNO in particular for the Kedah success, not by the power of one newly appointed MB.
Anyway Mukhriz should be given a pat on the back for promoting the now famous campaign theme: Dare to change. And for UMNO meantime, it is back to status quo.