Heat is on as political parties begin 100-day countdown

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The political temperature is set to rise as the 100-day countdown begins for four major political parties ending the year with heated elections.

Umno and MCA, the Barisan Nasional's two largest component parties are set to hold their party elections on Oct 19 and Dec 21 respectively.

For the Opposition, the DAP will be conducting its election for office bearers on Sept 29 while PAS will elect its office bearers on Nov 22.

The main focus will be on the Umno polls following the 13th general election which saw Barisan losing some seats but Umno gaining ground due to stronger support from Malay voters.

With no indication so far of a challenge to the two top positions held by president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the focus is on the five-way race for the party's three vice-presidential positions currently held by Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

Former Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad are joining the fray for the vice-presidency.

The biggest change is expected in the line-up for the supreme council, the party's highest decision making body as a number of incumbents, including several mentris besar, have indicated that they would not be defending their positions to concentrate on the government or state positions.

The election would be the first to use a new voting system to make the selection of leaders a more inclusive affair with the number of voters increased from 2,500 to about 150,000.

Equally intriguing will be the race for the MCA president's post although for the time being only deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has openly voiced his desire to go for the post.

Political observers, however, are not expecting a no-contest for the presidency.

Meanwhile, the top two candidates for the deputy president's post are MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong and vice-president Gan Ping Sieu.

The line-up of aspirants will be clearer after Sept 22 when the election for central delegates is held.

These central delegates would decide on the party's elected central leadership.

Thus, election hopefuls would be able to assess their chances based on how many of the 2,000-plus central delegates are aligned to them.

DAP's election on Sept 29 is also expected to be heated. Even now, underdogs are already crying foul over "blocked" access to the candidate list.

A life member lawyer M. Manoharan, who is among 68 candidates vying for the 20 central executive committee posts, said failure to provide the delegates' list was akin to denying candidates their democratic right to campaign.

DAP was directed by the Registrar of Societies to hold fresh polls following allegations of discrepancies in the party elections held last December.

PAS is also expected to see a stiff tussle for its number two post currently held by Mohamed Sabu and its three vice-president posts.

Many in the party are already openly talking about the rise of the ulama, rejecting the leadership of those closely aligned to Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.