KUALA LUMPUR - There were no surprises yet again, as the incumbents retained their post in the Umno vice-presidential polls Saturday. This trend followed last week's Wanita and Pemuda contests, when delegates voted for status quo.
It was clear that delegates felt there was chemistry between incumbents Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahidi, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein Onn.
This chemistry is said to be important in the next big war – the 14th general elections. While Barisan Nasional as a whole did much worse, Umno fared well to win 88 seats in the May 5 general election this year. The delegates felt the trio deserve a chance to plan strategies to regain the electorate in the next election.
Also in the minds of the delegates was the fact that the top two positions in the party went uncontested. Thus, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's call for status quo resounded within the party.
"The delegates know that it is not time to experiment now and disturb the inner workings of the party at a time when stability is needed," said a source close to the party.
This was seen in the Wanita race, where Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil easily won despite her family's involvement in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal.
As for the vice-presidential race on Saturday, Dr Ahmad Zahidi's place on top of the pile was a certainty and he surged to the finish with 185 votes. His resounding victory was attributed to his "fierce" and uncompromising ruthlessness in combating crime in the country.
While there will be critics of the Home Minister's right-wing stance, there are many others who support his hard-nosed efforts to tackle crime. Adding to this was his previous role as Defence Minister in ending the Lahad Datu siege by Sulu rebels.
Shafie, who got 174 votes, has the advantage of being from East Malaysia. Although there is word that he does not see eye-to-eye with Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, Sabahan delegates clearly wanted their representative in the top echelons of the party.
Those from peninsular also felt the Rural and Regional Development Minister deserved support because Sabah was essential in ensuring Barisan's victory in the last election.
Hishammuddin was perceived to be a "weak" Home Minister when he was handling the portfolio and this was reflected in the number of votes he received. He garnered 100 votes, just nine over the strongest contender, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir.
Hishammuddin's handling of the Lahad Datu incursion was a sore point, from the delegates' view.
His saving grace was probably the support he received from Umno Youth delegates who felt he had done much for the wing when he was their chief a few years ago. Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin was also openly supportive of his mentor and predecessor.
Mukhriz, meanwhile, was said to have a slim chance of getting into the club because of his father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's influence. He, however, lacked experience and is not even an Umno division leader.
While many pine for the days of his father's leadership, most of the delegates know that now is not the time for nostalgia. Mukhriz, however, has age on his side and the close contest with Hishammuddin indicates that he will be a force to reckon with in future.
Former Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and former Negri Sembilan mentri besar Tan Sri Isa Samad did not have much of a chance to start with because of their lower profiles currently.
Although Ali Rustam was a former Umno vice-president, he lost his bid for the Bukit Katil parliamentary seat in the last general election. Isa, meanwhile, who is Jempol MP and Felda chairman, has been out of the party echelons for a long time and was not seen as being relevant anymore.