No change at Umno helm expected

No change at Umno helm expected
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR - The October election of the politically dominant United Malays National Organisation (Umno) is likely to be a tame affair with no change in the party's top two posts and at the helm of the women's wing.

Indeed, interest is now centred on the contests for vice-president - where five candidates will duke it out for three posts - and the head of the Youth wing - where the incumbent is Culture and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Most analysts think that Mr Najib will not be challenged because a serious challenge - say from his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin - might split the party and leave it vulnerable in the next general election.

In addition, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who remains influential in Umno, has counselled against it.

There will also be no contest for the head of the woman's wing after Azalina Othman, a lawmaker from Johor, pulled out from the race on Tuesday, saying that she would focus on winning a seat in the Supreme Council instead.

That leaves the coast clear for incumbent Shahrizat Jalil who was not picked as a candidate in the March general election. Retaining her position would buttress Ms Shahrizat's comeback chances: her political star had seemed to fade after her husband got embroiled in a RM280 million (S$108 million) cattle-farming scheme that went awry.

Five candidates are vying for three vice-presidential posts. The incumbents - Home Minister Zahid Hamidi; Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, and Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal from Sabah - have all indicated that they would defend their posts.

Two others - Felda chairman Isa Samad and former Malacca chief minister Ali Rustam - have jumped into the fray.

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