Commentary - Not the dream team but it’ll do


It was not exactly a dream team but new Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak did get a group that he can confidently depend on to help him face the challenges ahead.

UMNO president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak did not get the dream team that he would have wanted but neither was it a “nightmare team”.

He got the deputy of his choice and three vice-presidents (VPs) who go back a long way with him and whom he can trust.

Najib had dropped so many hints about Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as his preferred deputy president that the delegates at the party general assembly would have been delinquent not to vote for the Johor politician.

After the mixed bag of results at the level of the three wings, some were worried that Najib would end up with a team that would be more baggage than benefit to him in his mission to rebuild Umno and regain lost ground.

Muhyiddin, who has an im­­­pressive track-record as a politician and administrator, is someone who can assist him from the word go.

He won convincingly with 1,575 votes against Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.

Muhyiddin had struggled throughout the contest because he did not play the money game.
(From left) Hishammuddin, Ahmad Zahid, Muhyiddin and Shafie raising their hands in triumph after the results of the elections were announced Thursday night.

At one point, there was even talk that his “stinginess” would cost him the post.

But good sense prevailed in the end and the delegates did the right thing.

It is likely the delegates to the main assembly, who are more mature and connected to Umno, could also foresee doomsday for Umno in the next general election if they did not give their new president a good No 2 and a solid team.

Najib should also have no problems with the three VPs — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

They won with 1,552, 1,515 an 1,445 votes respectively, suggesting that there was an eleventh hour move to ensure that the “president’s men” would win.

Zahid goes back all the way to Najib’s days as the Youth chief. Zahid has sometimes been unpredictable in his actions but he has always taken instructions from Najib. In October, he offered himself for the deputy president post, got a tongue-lashing from Najib and dutifully pulled out of the contest.

Hishammuddin’s election as a VP means that Umno now has the sons of two former Prime Ministers in its top leadership.

The Education Minister, who is also Najib’s cousin, had also struggled to keep abreast in the race be­­cause he was not spending money.

Moreover, he was competing against two other fellow Johoreans but the best man won in the end.

The former Youth chief has to credit Khairy Jamaluddin to some extent for his win because the new Youth chief had made a rousing victory speech asking the Youth delegates attending the general assembly to support Hishammuddin.

It was an important endorsement because Khairy was thought to be backing the other Johor candidate Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin.

The other VP is Sabahan Shafie. His election is a signal that Umno values the support of Sabah. Had the Sabah MPs jumped ship last year, the Barisan Nasional might have fallen.

Shafie has also been a staunch loyalist of Najib since the latter’s Youth leader days.

But the president’s menu stopped at the supreme council line-up which saw a mixed bag of names winning and some big guns tumbling out.

But as some pointed out, Umno like any other political party, is made up of the good, the bad and the ugly, and it is only natural that the supreme council line-up is not the “perfect list” that some would have preferred.

One of the priorities of the new president would be to initiate reform in the voting system to check money politics.

He hinted at it in a speech on Tuesday and it could come sooner than expected because the joke among Umno circles the last few days was that even if an angel had descended from heaven to contest the party elections, it would have lost if it did not indulge in some money politics.


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