Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Najib-Muhyiddin Showdown


Muhyiddin, for all his love and loyalty for Abdullah will have to be in the "anti Abdullah' camp. Hence the setting will be Abdullah-Najib versus Ku Li-Muhyiddin.

By MOHSIN ABDULLAH, Editor in Chief for News and Current Affairs of Ntv7 and 8TV/ MySinchew

In late 1987, rumours had it that then Johor Menteri Besar Muhyiddin Yassin would challenge Najib Razak for the UMNO Youth chief post. The wing's election had been scheduled the following year. Najib was then acting Youth Chief. The "fight" never took place. Perhaps it was due to the events in UMNO that culminated with the court ruling the party illegal in February 1988. Perhaps it was because of a string of other reasons. Perhaps there was never an intention in the first place.

Twenty one years on Muhyiddin (now Tan Sri with a senior minister post under his belt and UMNO vice president) is again seen set to mount a challenge on Najib. This time for the UMNO Deputy presidency.

Of course he will have to fight under the very same rules which UMNO put in place more than 20 years ago to "prevent" the party from "splitting " which many in UMNO are now clamouring for it to be dismantle.

Meaning, Muhyiddin will have to garner a substantial number of nominations from the hundred odd UMNO divisions nation wide. Will he get it? Hard to tell but already he has got the open "support" of former party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It'll be interesting to see if Mahathir's "endorsement" will be translated into divisional nominations .

"In a nutshell, Mahathir wants Najib to topple Abdullah. Pronto."

Mahathir's change of heart (he had voiced his support for Najib many times before and for the nation's number one post at that) was due to Najib's "persistence" of being a "Yes Man" to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. At least that's how Mahathir perceive it. In a nutshell, Mahathir wants Najib to topple Abdullah. Pronto.

Still Najib's repeated pledges of loyalty has moved Abdullah to say his number two "understands me" and with the same breath say Najib will "take over from me when the time come". Just when will that be? Not anytime soon definitely. Abdullah has said he can't leave the party in the present state of affairs. Post 8 March UMNO, for that matter BN, is in a mess which Abdullah has vowed to clean up. Could it be a time frame has been whispered to Najib?

As it is Najib will have to defend his post .Against Muhyiddin? In politics the question of right timing is of utmost importance. Many say the time is now for Muhyiddin to move up. Wait longer and it will be too late, they say. Many believe, Muhyiddin was Abdullah's first choice for the deputy prime minister's post when he took over from Mahathir in 2003.Abdullah's "delay' in naming his deputy fuelled that belief. But he finally picked Najib (some say at the "insistence" of Mahathir). But a number two spot in UMNO now will set in nicely for Muhyiddin. But then there's the recent "Najib is my successor" announcement mentioned earlier.

Yet Muhyiddin like Najib has been and still is, loyal to Abdullah. Both continue to prove to be able "generals" in the Abdullah administration. Knowing Abdullah (pardon the expression) he will want Najib and Muhyiddn to work together.

To be fair there's no bad blood among the two of them and even with Abdullah for that matter But in UMNO there are camps. That has always been the case.

And at present there are two camps. Forget the "subsidiaries". The A Team (A for Abdullah?) and the other led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who has made no qualms in saying he's ready to take on Abdullah in the December party polls. Mahathir still commands support and therefore has got his "army". He will throw his weight behind one time nemesis Ku Li. Ooh…! the beauty of politics.

Muhyiddin, for all his love and loyalty for Abdullah will have to be in the "anti Abdullah' camp. Hence the setting will be Abdullah-Najib versus Ku Li-Muhyiddin. It's not that I love Caesar less, bla bla bla, ,you know the line. Will it all come to that?

Word have it that with the current mood in UMNO,the challengers will get the necessary nominations to be eligible for contests. Like in 1987, when Ku Li's team B (which incidentally had in its ranks among others Abdullah) took on Mahathir's team A, the situation now in UMNO is hot. And it will get hotter. Make no mistakes about that.

But in 1987 the Muhyiddin – Najib show down did not materialise. Will it be different this time?

And finally I must apologise for going against my promise to write on the political climate of the BN components following the election setback. Somehow recent events in UMNO made me break my promise which I made last week. God willing the weeks ahead will give me the chance to make good the promise.

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