Leaders to face critical challenges for top Umno positions

Leaders to face critical challenges for top Umno positions

PETALING JAYA - The much awaited Umno polls today will be a test whether division leaders and party warlords can still influence the race for the vice-presidents' posts and supreme council seats.

There is much uncertainty over their power now as 146,500 party delegates are set to cast their votes in an election, the outcome of which could shake up the established order in the party.

While last week's elections for Youth and the Wanita wings saw the incumbent chiefs winning as expected, today's polling is likely to produce some upsets and surprises.

Two-thirds, or 127 of Umno's 191 division chiefs' posts, are up for grabs. For the supreme council, 50 new aspirants will compete with 14 incumbents for the 25 seats.

Cheras Umno chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Al-Habshee said division leaders could no longer call the shots.

"It was possible in the past because they had a smaller number of delegates to influence. Now it is a different ball game altogether," he said.

Kepong chief Datuk Ridzuan Abdul Hamid said trying to influence delegates would be tough especially when incumbent division chiefs themselves were being challenged.

According to party officials, most delegates are firm in wanting their say on who should lead the divisions and be given seats in Umno's top decision making body.

Party vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said delegates of last Saturday's election voted in more than 30 per cent new faces for the wings at division level.

"They kept the incumbents for some of the posts but at divisional level, they voted for change.

"If last Saturday's trend is any indicator, there will be many changes in the division line-up," said Zahid.

Johor Baru Umno division information chief Abu Talib Alias said while it was expected that ministers and mentris besar would be voted in, the rest of the supreme council members should comprise capable new leaders.

The race for the party vice-presidencies has generated the most interest, as its result would indicate the future leadership of Umno.

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