Sunday, September 14, 2008

Umno 'Dream Team' emerging


AS MALAYSIA braces itself for Sept 16, the day opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim hopes to form a new government, a faction within Umno - the dominant party in the ruling coalition - is working overtime to form what one insider calls "the Dream Team".

It would reunite two of the biggest rivals Umno has ever seen - Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. And go beyond that.

Dr Mahathir left the party in March, vowing to return only after Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was no longer Umno President.

However, the talk was that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin, a party vice-president, felt it was not right for the ex-president to stay out as Umno rebuilt itself after its worst-ever polls showing.

But a meeting last Saturday of "Umno veterans" was not merely an effort to bring back Dr Mahathir. It would also change the power equation in Umno and put the Abdullah-Najib 2010 pact in jeopardy.

Under the pact, Mr Abdullah would contest December's party elections with deputy premier Najib Razak as his deputy, then hand over power in 2010.

But Dr Mahathir will now reportedly throw his support behind Tengku Razaleigh, the man who came closest to defeating him in an Umno election.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who has publicly said Mr Abdullah should not wait until 2010 to step down, could be Tengku Razaleigh's running mate in this Dream Team.

But he has told friends he would be more than happy to step back for Rais Yatim, the veteran Foreign Minister.
Naturally, the team would include Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, Dr Mahathir's son, who will run for Umno Youth chief.

Are the incumbents worried? "You bet," said a Razaleigh aide. With the support of DrMahathir, Mr Muhyiddin and Mr Rais, Tengku Razaleigh will definitely get the minimum number of nominations needed to contest the No. 1 post.

Sources said Mr Najib was so worried that he sought an appointment to see Dr Mahathir. They met early this week.

There have been no press reports on the meeting, but my paper understands that Dr Mahathir made it clear to Mr Najib that he was "quite committed" to the Dream Team.

Ironically, Dr Mahathir had been rooting for Mr Najib to take on the role of president in December.

Earlier this year, Mr Najib and Mr Muhyiddin had even privately agreed to go for the No. 1 and No. 2 posts, respectively.

Mr Najib quit the deal when offered the 2010 deal. Could it be that he has been recruited into the Dream Team?

Only if he can convince Mr Muhyiddin or Mr Rais to allow him to contest for the deputy presidency.

The next few days and weeks will reveal more of the Dream Team.

Stay tuned.

click here: Umno 'Dream Team' emerging....
AsiaOne, Singapore - 12 Sep 2008