Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s decision to open all of its top central leadership posts to contests has created a path for stiff competition for the party’s first-ever election.
While the decision was greeted well at the grassroots level, it may also pose a headache to the big guns who are defending their posts. But such is democracy.
A tradition in some parties in Malaysia is not to contest the president and deputy president posts.
In Bersatu, however, president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his deputy, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, will be challenged.
At least two people are interested in going up against Muhyiddin, the New Straits Times learnt. They are Johor Bersatu chairman Mazlan Bujang, who has yet to confirm his candidacy, and a division deputy chief from Kuala Lumpur who wanted to “test the waters”.
“Mazlan has expressed his intention to challenge the presidency many times,” said a source.
Mazlan’s attempt is, without a doubt, respectable and courageous, considering that Muhyiddin, with his decades of political experience, would not be an easy opponent.
As for the deputy president’s post, while there were rumours of those wanting to try their luck, none had come forward.
A party insider said a few people were reluctant to challenge Muhkriz as it would be seen as “challenging” party chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
However, fierce competition is on the cards for the three vice-president’s posts, which are held only by Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman and Datuk Abdul Rashid Ansari after Datuk Hamidah Osman left the party in 2017.
Word has it that Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Redzuan Yusof would win one of the vice-president’s posts easily due to his popularity. This is unexpected, given Redzuan’s image at the federal level where he has been criticised for his flying car project.
“We know Pak Wan (Redzuan) and how he works. He may talk about flying cars to the media, but when he’s on the ground, he’s in touch with reality,” a Bersatu grassroots leader said.
Others expected to contest are Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, former education minister Dr Maszlee Malik and Supreme Leadership Council members Datuk Mohd Rafiq Naizamohideen and Wan Saiful Wan Jan.
“Rafiq was supposed to contest the Armada chief post, but he decided to take the harder path.
“Wan Saiful has not confirmed, but he and Maszlee have been mentioned to contest the post. There are a few others who want to go for vice-president, but it’s uncertain. It’s the first party election and people want to try their luck,” said a Bersatu leader.
Datuk Seri Rina Harun’s and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s posts as Srikandi and Armada chiefs would be challenged by two grassroots leaders who are gaining in momentum.
As NST previously reported, Kepala Batas division chief Azlina Mehtab Mohd Ishaq is eyeing the Srikandi chief’s post and, according to talk on the ground, she has the support of more than 50 per cent of Bersatu members.
Unlike Azlina, who is a party division leader, Rina, who is rural development minister and Titiwangsa member of parliament, does not hold any division post. She is also said to lack grassroots support.
If Azlina continues her momentum, she may ruin Rina’s chances of remaining in the cabinet.
Syed Saddiq, who is youth and sports minister, is expected to be challenged by Armada executive council member Muzammil Ismail.
An Armada insider said Muzammil had a higher chance of becoming the new chief and this would affect Syed Saddiq’s position in the cabinet.
Democracy is indeed being tested in Bersatu, which is trying to pull off the party polls amid being called “Umno 2.0”.
Allegations of money politics have reared their ugly head ahead of the polls.
Malaysians hope Bersatu members would perform their duties responsibly — choose a leader based on merit and not on how much cash handouts he or she can manage.
Former United States president Franklin D Roosevelt once said: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.”
Let’s hope wisdom wins the day.
Bersatu has 377,057 members from 2,946 branches nationwide. Nominations for posts at branches and divisions will close on Jan 26. – NST