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146,000 to decide Umno’s new line-up

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PETALING JAYA: The nomination of candidates for the Umno election closes at 5pm today as the party heads into its most transparent polls to date which will see more than 146,000 delegates choosing their line-up of leaders.

No surprises are expected for the party president and deputy president posts. Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are almost certain to be returned unopposed.

But further down the field, the temperature will get notably warmer with keen contests expected for most positions.

The new, more transparent election regulations, which allow more voters to take part and do away with strict entry requirements for candidates, are being credited for the crowded field of candidates. Already 318 nomination forms have been distributed to the aspirants.

All candidates must file their papers from 8am today, ahead of voting for the party’s top positions on Oct 19 while polling for office-bearers in Umno Youth, Wanita Umno and Puteri Umno will take place on Oct 12.

There have been no indications of a potential challenge to Najib or Muhyiddin by any significant figure. While obscure contenders could yet emerge today, they will unlikely pose any threat to the two incumbents.

“With polling just four weeks away, there is no longer enough time for any possible newcomer in the race to mount an effective campaign for the top two positions,” said Assoc Prof Shaharuddin Badaruddin from Universiti Teknologi Mara.

Party vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said most party members were against a contest for the top two positions “as we know very well the repercussions”.

“We are looking at the bigger picture. Having a contest for the top two positions will weaken the party in the run-up to the next general election, which is what the new line-up will have to prepare for,” he said.

With the top two positions likely uncontested, the hottest race will be for the three vice-presidential positions, with Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Paduka Mukhriz Mahathir the most closely-watched candidate.

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Shafie will be defending their positions.

Apart from Mukhriz, others vying for the position are former Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.

Another interesting contest will be for the Umno Youth chief post, which incumbent Khairy Jamaluddin is defending against Akhramsyah Sanusi, the son of former Kedah Mentri Besar Tan Sri Sanusi Junid.

Relatively unknown party members Karim Ali, who is Merbok division Umno Youth chief, and Syed Rosli Syed Harman Jamalullail from the Pandan division are also said to be eyeing the position, which could throw the race into a four-way fight.

Another party minnow Raihan Sulaiman will, meanwhile, try to unseat Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil as the Wanita Umno chief.

For Puteri Umno, the departure of the movement’s chief Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin, who has passed the 40-year-old age limit for the position has created a two-way contest.

The number of voting delegates has been increased from about 2,500 in previous party polls under the more inclusive new election system.

-THE STAR

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