Monday, September 9, 2013

Kedah MB says he’s ‘still’s a tough decision to make’

by Habhajan Singh & Prem Kumar Panjamorthy

Newly minted Kedah Mentri Besar (MB) Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir is torn between devoting energy to develop the state and seizing the window of opportunity to move up the party ranks to fortify his political career.

With the Umno polls coming closer, Mukhriz has yet to announce his game plan, though some speculate that he may vie for one of the three VP posts.

“I’m still undecided. It’s a tough decision to make,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in an interview at his office in Alor Setar last week.

After putting the question to a contest in the next Umno polls from a few different angles, TMR believes that Mukhriz is most likely to contest for a post in the coming Umno elections, though he may shy away from joining the fray for the already crowded contest for VPs.

Mukhriz seemed to make a distinction between an elected Umno supreme council member and an appointed one.

Umno is set to go for polls on Oct 19, with about 146,500 delegates from 199 Umno divisions voting for the posts for president, deputy president, three VPs and 25 supreme council (SC) members.

Aside from the 25 elected SC members, the Umno president can appoint any number of members to the powerful decision making body. MBs of Umno-led states get free-passes if they are not already elected in their own right.

“Even if I don’t (contest), I will be automatically appointed to the SC. But an appointed SC member sits at the end of the big table, where I am now. His voice was not quite heard. By the time I got a chance to speak, it’s towards the end of the meeting.

“It’s something else if you contest and be higher up in the food chain,” he said.

Taking a more philosophical look at his position, Mukhriz, the 49-year-old son of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, shared his personal dilemma.

“On one hand, I have some heavy obligations in the state. The workload is gruelling. I don’t want to do anything that may raise concerns (as to) whether I’m paying enough attention to my own state.

“Having said that, there are calls for me to participate in the national party politics. Supposedly, I represent the younger generation. There is this worry that if this process of making Umno more youthful doesn’t quite pan out as they hope, then we may face some serious challenges in the next general election,” he said.

“I’m kind of torn between these two schools of thoughts,” he said.

Mukhriz may have reasons to throw caution to the wind when it comes to a VP post. While he may have the backing of his still-influential father, he is not assured of a free pass, judging by what happened in 2009.

Then, he ran for the Umno youth chief position, only to come out third behind winner Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar and former Selangor MB Dr Mohamed Khir Toyo.

For the VP slots this time around, the battle will be tough.

Current Umno VPs — Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal — are all set to defend their seats against other heavyweights like influential former Chief Ministers (CMs) Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad (Negri Sembilan) and Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam (Malacca).

Sabah CM Datuk Seri Musa Aman may also vie for the VP post, though he has yet to make his position known.

On calls for state Umno chiefs to refrain from contesting in the upcoming Umno polls, Mukhriz described them as “uncalled for” as it is against the democratic process to deny one’s right to contest.

“This is not the time to set certain parameters to exclude a certain group of people from exercising their right.

“I have once said that even the position of the president and deputy president should be open for contest, though I qualified it. Personally, I don’t think there is anyone in Umno credible enough to make a dent on the support that the two leaders are currently enjoying,” he said.

For the moment, Perak MB Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and Johor MB Datuk Seri Mohamed Khalid Nordin have stated that they will not be contesting any position in the upcoming Umno polls.