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UMNO 'blue blood' may face-off
Publication Date : 20-09-2013
Call it the battle of the Malaysian blue blood.
A fight is looming in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) involving three sons of former prime ministers, amid widespread expectations that Kedah state chief Mukhriz Mahathir will join the race to be a party vice-president.
If he were to submit his nomination papers on Saturday, the son of former premier Mahathir Mohamad is expected to put up a stiff fight against the weakest of the three UMNO vice-presidents, Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also the son of a former premier.
It would also put him at odds with Prime Minister Najib Razak, the son of the second prime minister.
This is because UMNO president Najib has quietly indicated that he would like Hishammuddin, 52, who is his cousin, and the other two vice-presidents to be unchallenged, as he tries to strengthen the party - and his own position - after the May general election.
The other two are Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal. Both are expected to successfully defend their positions.
If Mukhriz succeeds in becoming a vice-president, that would strengthen the hand of his father, Mahathir - still influential enough to be considered a kingmaker in Umno - rather than allowing Najib to fully helm the party.
"This news puts Najib in a bind as he wants the three vice-presidents to stay," Zaharin Mohd Yasin, organising secretary for a Kuala Lumpur Barisan Nasional division, told The Straits Times.
UMNO, Malaysia's biggest party with 3.4 million members, holds its internal elections every three years.
The polls are closely watched as its president and deputy president traditionally become Malaysia's prime minister and deputy prime minister. UMNO's senior office bearers, including the three vice-presidents, are always appointed as senior members of the Malaysian Cabinet.
Mukhriz, 48, has yet to openly declare his candidacy.
But news that he received the nod on Tuesday from all of UMNO Kedah's 15 divisions was quickly picked up by the media, and people around him said on Wednesday he had made up his mind to contest.
Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin are expected to be unchallenged at the internal polls. A possible challenger to the president's post, Kelantan member of parliament Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, has yet to confirm if he will do so.
Mukhriz, if he were to enter the vice-presidential race, would be the third person to announce his candidacy. Two former menteris besar Isa Samad, 63, and Ali Rustam, 64, have said they would be contesting, though it is not clear whether the duo will actually submit their nomination papers on Saturday.
The Straits Times understands that Najib had separately met Isa and Ali to persuade them to withdraw.
Another blue blood in the UMNO elections who could face a fight is incumbent UMNO youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who was made youth and sports minister by Najib. Khairy may be facing off with Akhramsyah Sanusi, a son of former Kedah state chief Sanusi Junid.
While Mukhriz is a son of Mahathir, Sanusi is an ally of the former prime minister.
Looked at from this angle, the battle of the blue blood is between proxies of Mahathir and Najib.