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Turmoil in Negeri Sembilan UmnoWritten by Nawawi Mohamad, Malaysia Chronicle
Mohamad Hasan was appointed the state's Mentri Besar in 2004 by former premier Abdullah Badawi. Isa, who went for the Jempol parliamentary seat, was appointed the FT Minister. Sad to say, Isa was soon sacked and also suspended from their ruling Umno party after it was discovered that he had cheated at the Umno internal polls.
Mohamad Hasan did not do too well either. He faced a rebellious state executive council and was accused of incompetency. In the 2008 general election, Umno-BN nearly lost Negri Sembilan to the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Awar Ibrahim. BN could only garner 21 state seats while newbie coalition Pakatan snatched 15.
Immediately, Umno members rushed to blame the hapless Mohamad Hasan, who had made himself unpopular with his arrogant ways. Not only did he lack oomph as head of the state government, he also failed to close ranks after the bitterly-fought 2004 party polls.
Fight for MB post
Till now, Negri Sembilan Umno is divided into several main factions - those still loyal to Isa who had ruled the state from 1982 to 2004, those who support Hasan, and those who are close to other prominent Umno politicians from the state such as Khairy Jamaluddin, Rais Yatim and Lilah Yassin.
It is a wonder how Mohamad Hasan managed to persuade Najib to let him continue to be chief minister after Najib took over from Badawi as PM in 2009. There was heavy clamoring for Hasan to be replaced by the Seremban Umno division chief Ishak Ismail, who is one of Isa's staunch supporters.
But Najib stuck to his guns. It came as a huge surprise given that Ishak is also very close to Najib and furthermore, Ishak's mentor - Isa Samad - is said to have a 'very special hold' on Najib. Rumours remain rife within Umno that Isa is still keeping the photos allegedly taken of Najib with a sexy starlet in a compromising position in a hotel in Port Dickson.
Whatever Najib's rationale for retaining Mohamad Hasan, many Umno leaders leaders in the state got very worried that they would lose Negri Sembilan in the next general election. Now with less than a year to go before the 13th general election must be held, this fear is looming even larger.
Concerns are real
The BN concerns are real because Anwar and team have started working very hard in Negeri Sembilan with discreet but very frequent visits since 2011. PKR is targeting an extra 4 seats, while PAS is lighting up the ceramah circuit in its push for an additional seat. DAP is quite confident of winning at least another seat at Chennah to add to its current tally of 10 state seats.
Whether the Pakatan ambitions succeed or not, infighting within Umno is now its own greatest enemy. Rivalry and jealousy has spread like cancer and many demoralized leaders have even contemplated crossing over to the Pakatan, provided they get the all-important promise that they will be fielded as contestants in GE-13.
Yes, many in Umno fear being dislodged from Najib's 'winnable candidates' list which till now he has not been able to finalize. Furthermore, Isa - despite being kept busy with Felda listing - has also made sure that his loyalists worked hard, expanding his support base. Many in the state Umno say Isa now wields the most control, easily beating Hasan despite the latter's chief minister position.
Those in the running and those who might be running OUT!
The initial list of candidates for the MB post being evaluated by Najib originally included Hassan Malek, Zakaria Nordin, Shaziman Mansor, Ismail Lasim and Lilah Yassin. Khairy Jamaluddin was never in the picture, while Shaziman is not interested to be MB because he is comfortable with his position in the federal Cabinet. Lilah is just another MP and considered as a junior compared to Hasan Malek.
Hasan Malek is the deputy minister of rural development. He might be the front-runner for the post in the event that Najib chooses again to snub Isa and his faction for the top state job. Indeed, those in the state division say he is already counting his chickens, knowing Mohamad Hasan will be moved to the federal level.
He also is very sure that Khairy is now a 'nobody' and may not even be named to contest the Rembau seat. As for Information minister Rais Yatim, he is believed to be at the mercy of Najib allegedly over a scandal involving maid-rape. Hasan Malek's only drawback is that he is aligned to Mohamad Hasan, and his selection will surely rile up the Isa Samad faction.
As for Zakaria Nordin, he is Isa’s man and if Najib picks him, it would benefit Isa but the infighting will not go away either. It might even worsen and this could bolster Pakatan's chances of wresting the state government.
Of interest is Ismail Lasim, the Kuala Pilah Umno. But he doesn't have a chance. He is suspected of being a possible defector to the Pakatan after he was seen with Anwar when the Opposition Leaders visited Kampong Sri Pilah last year. Since then, Ismail has been treated like an outcase despite working hard to improve his constituency.
For sure, Ismail is disappointed efforts are overshadowed by suspicion over his loyalty. Whether he will actually jump ship or not remains to be seen but the door of opportunity that has begun to close on Ismail is also a window of opportunity for his rivals within Umno - if their party manages to retain the state government that is!