Hornbill Unleashed

October 7, 2014

When Allah CDs become a casualty in Umno’s politics

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
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Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein is slugging it out with Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the Umno deputy presidency. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, October 2, 2014.THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein is slugging it out with Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the Umno deputy presidency.

This is not the first time Putrajaya has asked to stay a court decision but Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s move in the Jill Ireland case goes beyond public interest.

The refusal to hand back the Allah CDs to the Sarawakian is also the battle to be the next Umno leader after party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

His deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, would be nearer 70 in the next Umno elections and is likely to step down, leaving Zahid and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to slug it out for the party deputy presidency.

The other Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal from Sabah is seen as a lightweight.

With that post also comes the job of deputy prime minister in a Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

The younger Hishammuddin is considered a front-runner, not the least because of his political aristocracy – the son of former Umno president and prime minister Tun Hussein Onn, the grandson of Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar, nephew to former Umno president Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and cousin to Najib.

The lawyer from Johor, the Umno birthplace, has also gone through almost all the ministries seen as a stepping stone to be prime minister, including the powerful Education Ministry, now held by Muhyiddin.

All that is not lost on Zahid, who is popular among the party rank-and-file and who also won the most votes in the Umno vice-presidential race last year.

But he is the same age as Najib, who at 61, has many years to go as Umno president in a party that looks down on challenges to the incumbent.

But with Muhyiddin seen fading away from the scene in party polls slated for 2016, the battle for influence among the Umno rank-and-file has already started as the younger leaders jockey for top posts.

Both Zahid and Hishammuddin have been going around Malaysia to open Umno divisional meetings, a key indicator of which warlords support them in the party polls.

Zahid has been taking hardline and right-wing stance when opening divisional meetings because the senior Umno vice-president wants to win over the party and Malay hardliners ahead of the tough fight for the deputy presidency.

There has been some pressure from Hishammuddin’s boys for him to follow the same route but so far the Umno vice-president has not jumped on the right-wing bandwagon.

At divisional meetings, Hishammuddin has been trying to remind Umno delegates that the middle path is the best way. And his political consultants and image makers have been hard at work to paint him as a moderate.

But it is not going to be easy for Hishammuddin to convince the Umno ground about moderation – Umno has long ceased to be the party of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn.

It has become party that veered more to the right in reaction to the results of the past two general elections. And when a party goes far to the right, the middle becomes the left.

It is also a party that does not quite agree with party president Najib’s moderate and reformer credentials, berating him for repealing the Internal Security Act and now opposing any move to abolish the Sedition Act.

Observers say the hardline stance taken by Zahid is bad news for Malaysians and foreign watchers who believe that the country is on a dangerous path of racial and religious strife.

They also say that any Umno leader, including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was seen as an ultra before becoming Umno president, has to take a broader view and not such a hardline stand or risk popular support.

But for those aspiring to be the next top Umno leader, a hardline stance is seen as a prerequisite and a much-admired value in the party.

Hence why Jill Ireland from Sarawak might have won a court order to get back her Allah CDs but the BN government’s home minister is not in a hurry to comply. His battle now is in Umno, not Sarawak where there is no Umno.

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