Johor Umno set for heated polls as 20 of 26 divisions to see leadership contests
JOHOR BARU, Feb 28 — Umno Johor will see contests to lead 20 out of its 26 divisions during the party’s internal elections.
Based on the latest candidates’ list, the leaders of six divisions — including several incumbents — have already won their posts uncontested.
They include Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi in the Simpang Renggam division, state Umno chief Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin in the Pasir Gudang division, and his deputy chief Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed in the Pulai division.
Several divisions are set for heated contests, such as in Pontian where Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan will challenge former Johor menteri besar Datuk Sei Hasni Mohammad for the leadership.
This is the first time that Ahmad, who is also the Pontian MP, will contest against Hasni for the division’s chief post, after years of being the latter’s deputy.
Hasni, who is both the Simpang Renggam MP and Benut assemblyman, is known to have strong grassroots support in the Pontian division.
He will also be vying for one of Umno’s three vice presidential posts in a hotly contested field.
Another state leader, Johor Speaker and Umno supreme council member Datuk Mohd Puad Zakarshi, will be in a three-cornered contest to defend his Batu Pahat division chief’s post.
Fellow Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam is also in a three-way fight for the Sri Gading division chief post.
Other interesting divisional tussles are in Pengerang where Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said is being challenged by Datuk Mhd Tahir Mohd Noah for the division chief post.
Azalina is also contesting to be an Umno vice president.
Former health minister and incumbent Tenggaroh division chief Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba is also being challenged by his former vice chief Datuk Suhaimi Khalid.
Sources close to the Johor Umno leadership have described some of the contests as a proxy battle between the main camp of party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and party leaders who are against him.
“The contestants for the post of division chiefs are already an obvious give away, where one can see their party allegiances,” said one source who declined to be named to Malay Mail today.
However, Johor Umno secretary Datuk Samsolbari Jamali was quick to dismiss such rumours and maintained that the challenges were based on the spirit of democracy.
He said the contests for divisions chief and other positions in Johor showed that Umno was still relevant and had its supporters.
“In Umno, there are still many who volunteer themselves to serve and at the same time adopt the concept of democracy that is practiced by the party,” he told reporters earlier.
Samsolbari added that it was the right of the respective candidate to volunteer themselves as leaders democratically.
At the same time, he said it was also the right of Johor Umno members to choose and vote for the party’s future based on the candidate’s performance and contribution.
Earlier, Ahmad Zahid denied that Umno, as the country’s largest political party, is beset with factionalism, ahead of internal elections next month.
Zahid was asked to comment on claims there were three separate camps in Umno — one that supports his leadership, another that is against him, and a third neutral group.
Umno elections began on February 1 and will run until March 18 with branch polls for committees, Wanita, Youth and Puteri Wings slated from February 1 to 26.
The divisional elections for the Wanita, Youth and Puteri Committees will be held simultaneously nationwide on March 11.
The Umno divisional delegates’ meeting and polls along with the election of Umno Supreme Council members will be held simultaneously throughout the country on March 18.