Saturday, October 19, 2013

Eyeing Rashid Yusuf's Discerning winners and trends vis a vis the UMNO polls

BY the time today's early EPL kick-off gets under way (7.45pm), the domestic political punditry shall erupt with expectations versus reality match-ups as the early results are dissected.
A heads up. It is probably unfair to expect Umno voters to all be as "individual" as the unaffiliated segments of the general election electorate.
Party affiliation, things they do together for decades such as battling it out in nationwide polls and by-elections, also loyalty to opinion leaders and establishment personalities, would inevitably produce discernible even predictable voting patterns.
Party insiders tend to thread cautiously in dealing with some of the hard facts and likely outcomes, perhaps fearing Umno watchers may draw too rapid a conclusion, especially detrimental ones.
They have, in conversations this past week, hinted at quantities of bloc voting, repeating the trend seen at last Saturday's polls for Wanita, Youth and Puteri.
"The majority of the voters are from my generation," said Datuk Naim Mohamad (born in 1954) who started his political education as a special officer to the then youngish Malacca chief minister Tan Sri Rahim Thamby Chik. Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, one of the six vice-presidential contenders, was a fellow special officer.
"The mindset of my generation is to back the establishment," said Naim.
The backdrop. The excitement induced by the presence of a son of the much loved Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the form of the well, loveable, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir has helped galvanise an election that is threatening to match the energy and enthusiasm thrown up by the May 5 nationwide polls.
There is this charm about Mukhriz, a quality honed by pedigree and polish, translating into admirations by those outside Umno, too.
A promising result for the Kedah menteri besar shall be viewed as a plus for a party deemed by a segment of Malays as having grown apart from their consciousness.
A formidable obstacle for Mukhriz, according to an insider, is the influence wielded by the ketua bahagian (divisional leaders) nationwide.
"There is a certain hierarchy about the voting patterns ... a majority of leaders at the branches will take the cue from the divisional leaders," said the insider.
Then, again, some of the divisional leaders are facing a challenge.
"There will be a split, but we don't expect too many upsets."
As this narrative does desperately need fresh injection of excitement, this reporter was speaking to a newly elected member of Umno Youth, Tengku Zuhri Aziz, 36, the other day.
He has the added perspective of operating from the Lembah Pantai division in Kuala Lumpur.
The New Straits Times has also benefited from lengthy conversations with all six contenders over the past few weeks.
No, mediocrity is not prevalent in the party.
These personalities are thoroughbreds. They have been around and worked hard.
"Ali Rustam never sleeps," said Naim, mindful of the exaggeration.
Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is articulate, perhaps surprisingly so as statements issued to the press do not really bring out the depth of a person.
Shafie was most poignant, recounting the episode of the Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim versus Tun Ghafar Baba episode in 1993.
"I had later gone to see Tun Ghafar to apologise to him," said Shafie, who found the late Ghafar, who was most instrumental in bringing Umno to Sabah, magnanimous and forgiving. Anwar won the contest.
"These guys who are contesting... they are serious contenders, towering personalities with a track record," said a political analyst.
Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi exudes this infectious sort of energy, smiles unfailingly and even gives the impression he has done a fair bit of research into your writing style.
The NST wanted most to discern what moves a young Umno voter like Zuhri. He must surely see Zahid, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who is credited in party circles as having trained many of the party's young leaders when he was Umno Youth leader, and Mukhriz as second echelon leaders.
So, will that rule out, say, Ali Rustam?
"Some voters want a VP to take care of the needs of party members, and focus on the party, so he can't be discounted," said Zuhri.
This reporter, was in turn, asked last night why Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad is in the fray.
Isa has his legions of supporters and was actually voted into the VP line up in 2004 before he was suspended.
The NST asked him the same question.
"I represent members of my generation. I am a party senior," said the 63-year-old former menteri besar of Negri Sembilan.
Zuhri said outsiders must not be ruled out.
"You will see true democracy in the contest for the top posts. Every vote has a different consideration."
Naim, on his part, acknowledged that the younger set of voters shall be freer in expressing their wishes today.
Familiarity, reservoirs of goodwill, a ministerial portfolio, seniority and networks shall shape the outcome, given that contenders cannot be talking to every single voter.
There is something else, even a more definitive conclusion. Umno members say they shall assemble a team that shall engage Pakatan in the 14th General Election or PRU 14. Malaysians will encounter this new acronym -- PRU14 -- a fair bit from now on.
A supreme council member was at press time summing up the impact of the VP contest.
"Even if Mukhriz finishes a strong fourth, he shall be, at 49, ahead of the curve.
"Remember, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was not in the VP line up in 1993, and three years later, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was unsuccessful in his bid to retain his VP seat.
Both eventually came back and moved up the ranks."

Read more: Discerning winners and trends - Columnist - New Straits Times


 'Seniors' likely to be kingmakers

TREND: They are most likely to vote in leaders who have been around for a long time and contributed to party

KUALA LUMPUR: KEEN students of voting trends will see a clear age segmentation within Umno's bank of voters as the party's estimated 146,500 members decide who gets to be in the top party leadership.
These voters from the 20,800 Umno branches nationwide will also vote in 191 leaders to lead their divisions.
A quick look at half of the incumbent divisional chiefs shows that the majority of the leaders fall in the "above 55" age bracket, with many more, over 60 years of age.
Those under 50 make up no more than 14 leaders.
The Umno supreme council is also looking at a sizeable number of contenders who are in the "senior" age bracket.
While there are 17 who are above 60, the majority of those in the 50 to 60 bracket are above 55.
Of the 62 contenders, only 14 are between 40 and 50 years old, with Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin and Datuk Reezal Merican Naina Merican both being the youngest at 41.
At the branches, those with voting rights are its chairman, Wanita, Youth and Puteri heads. The chairmen, most of whom are in the "senior" age group get to decide who should be given the privilege of filling up the three other spots.
Seasoned political observers would attest that while these chairmen would exercise this right in all fairness, they would be inclined to pick candidates who had been around long enough.
Of the seven voters from each branch, at least two, the Youth and Puteri representatives, will be below 40. A rough estimate of the number of voters in this age group is 41,600.
Female voters would make up at least 28 per cent of the total number of voters, but half of them are those above 40.
"The bulk of the ballot papers will likely go to seasoned Umno candidates. While the number of voters in the younger age bracket is significant, the seasoned members in the vote bank are in fact the kingmakers.
"Aside from the clear criteria like track record and other considerations, their votes could be swayed by sentiments," one said, adding that it was inevitable that seniors among the voters would also look at a candidate's pedigree, lineage and history.
One political analyst said there was no empirical evidence to suggest a correlation between young voters' age and their voting patterns.
"The idea that young voters would lend their support to young candidates could be flawed.
"Being able to relate to those in a relatively similar age bracket does not mean that they would hand them their vote," he said.
Prof Datuk Dr Zainal Kling, however, believes that it is only natural for younger voters to pick younger leaders to helm top party posts.
He said Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, an Umno vice-president hopeful, connected better with Youth and Puteri members than his five other contenders.
It is estimated that 30 per cent of the delegates who would be voting in the Umno vice-presidents and 25 supreme council members today, are older than 40.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Associate Professor Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat said junior Umno members would want more young leaders in the party leadership so as to effect the kind of change they expected.
"Young voters want a change in how the party operates. They want a fresh outlook for Umno.
"Because of this, they feel that a leader like Mukhriz, who is 48, will be able to meet their expectations."
Samsul also said he believed that more senior party members would vote based on loyalty.
"They are loyal to candidates who are more senior and have contributed to the party."

Read more: 'Seniors' likely to be kingmakers - General - New Straits Times