Thursday, March 26, 2009

Najib's man wins battle to be Umno's No. 2

Najib's man wins battle to be Umno's No. 2
Fri, Mar 27, 2009
my paper

[RIGHT MAN: Incoming Umno president Najib Tun Razak (left) has got the deputy he wanted, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.]

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Malaysia's Umno party yesterday finally gave incoming party president Najib Tun Razak the deputy he is said to have wanted.

But the general-assembly delegates made him sweat for it. In the tussle for the deputy presidency of the country's dominant party, International Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, 61, duly emerged triumphant.

He is said to have been "Najib's pick", in contrast to his opponent, Rural Development Minister Muhammad Muhammad Taib, 59.

According to online news portalMalaysian Insider, Najib surrogates had been going around telling delegates Tan Sri Muhyiddin was Datuk Seri Najib's choice. Powerful party warlords had been drafted to ensure he won convincingly.

Yet on Wednesday, the party had sent Mr Najib some worrying signals when the new leaders chosen for the Women's and Youth wings were seen as aligned to outgoing chief Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Indeed, in the No. 2 race, the front-runner by last week was also "Abdullah's man": Malacca Chief Minister Ali Rustam.

But he was abruptly bumped from the race for money politics.

Some saw it as a brutal sideswiping.

Many of Mr Ali's supporters supposedly switched to Tan Sri Muhammad in protest.

By 10pm last night, however, unofficial results showed that Mr Muhyiddin - among the first top Umno leaders to call for Datuk Seri Abdullah to bow out after a poor electoral showing last year - had done enough to win.

He was seen as more of an international statesman, while Mr Muhammad was seen as a charismatic grassroots man.

Ultimately, perhaps, Umno felt there were enough checks and balances with the results from the Women and Youth wings that Mr Najib deserved the deputy wanted.

The three vice-presidents elected were also seen as part of the Najib team.

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