Ku Li moves up a gear in tough drive for support
Posted by Super Admin
Monday, 02 June 2008
Ku Li is still facing obstacles on the ground. Party members are being stopped from attending his functions. But if branches pass resolutions giving him their support, the division chiefs will have no choice but to allow their members to debate the resolution and consider nominating Ku Li
The Malaysian Insider Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has stepped up his campaign to obtain the 58 nominations from Umno divisions to contest party president’s position in December.
He openly asked branch officials to support his candidacy when he made the rounds in Kelantan on Friday and Saturday. The Umno veteran also asked branch officials to pass resolutions supporting him during their meetings and elections which will begin in 6 weeks. He knows that once a branch passes a resolution, it will have to be tabled and discussed when the all important division meetings are held.
An aide told the Malaysian Insider: "Ku Li is still facing obstacles on the ground. Party members are being stopped from attending his functions. But if branches pass resolutions giving him their support, the division chiefs will have no choice but to allow their members to debate the resolution and consider nominating Ku Li."
It is not only the Kelantan prince who is courting the ordinary man. So are Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Dr Mahathir knows that if he is to stand any chance of pushing Abdullah out from office before December, he must whip up anger among Umno branches.
For Abdullah, the equation is simple. If branches pass resolutions supporting his opponents or Datuk Seri Najib Razak as party president, this could influence proceedings at the crucial division meetings in October.
Since offering himself for the top post in the party, Tengku Razaleigh has confined his speeches to sketching a D-Day scenario for Umno and outlining the steps the ruling party needs to take to regain the support of the ground. He has also pushed for the democratisation of Umno, urging the grassroots to demand an election system where the party’s three million members had a say in the choice of individuals who lead the party.
But with the important branch elections only weeks away, Ku Li has had to opt for a more direct plea for support in his meetings with fishermen, taxi drivers and other blue collar workers – the salt of the earth types who form the spine of the party in rural areas. In the eyes of the powerful division warlords, he is an outsider, someone who has tried unsuccessfully over the years to snare the top post in the party.
He is neither a minister nor in any position to offer patronage in the same way that the incumbents in Umno’s top positions are able to. Also, because he has not been part of the national leadership for a long time, the younger members of the party do not have a connection with him. All these factors will count against Ku Li at the division meetings unless there is a groundswell of support from branch officials which cannot be ignored.
That is why Ku Li is working the ground hard, moving from one meeting to another, shooting breeze with the everyday man and not worrying if he has 50 people in the audience or 500. He knows that his hope lies with the ordinary member. The only concern is whether his message of reform and the need to make Umno attractive for all Malaysians is getting any traction with this crowd.
Quite clearly, they are more interested in talk about Malays losing political power. Speakers who took the podium before Ku Li mentioned how the non-Malays had gained a stronger voice in Malaysia after Election 2008, pointing out that the deputy speaker in Perak is an Indian and the Speaker in Selangor is a Chinese.
It is this concern of dissipating political power among the Malay grassroots which Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his supporters have been trying to stoke and capitalise on. The former prime minister knows that if he is to be successful in forcing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi from power he cannot depend on the current set of division leaders, Umno supreme council members, deputy ministers and ministers.
Only a clutch of power brokers including Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are agreeable to Abdullah stepping down before December. Like Ku Li, Tun Dr Mahathir also has to build up the momentum for the overthrow of Abdullah from the branch level.
On his part, Abdullah has also been reaching out to branch officials. So far, he has met the rank-and-file from Penang, Kedah and Selangor. They have criticised him openly over his leadership style and his choice of advisers. But none of them asked him to step down before December. Still, not all his supporters believe that the battle is won, yet.Not with Ku Li and Dr Mahathir working as hard as they are.