ALOR SETAR (Sept 19): Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Paduka Mukhriz Mahathir confirmed he will make the six-corner fight for one of the three Umno vice president positions. Following weeks of speculation and advice by his supporters, Mukhriz told the media, he finally relented to the pressure to contest the third most important position in Umno. The incumbents, cabinet ministers Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal – will face former chief of states Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam who was chief minister in Melaka and Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad who held the Negeri Sembilan menteri besar position, and now Mukhriz. Evidently the youngest, 49-year-old Mukhriz said the "time is now" to make the changes in light of the 14th general election where leaders such as "AI" (referring to Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) would not be featured in national politics. "Perhaps at that time, the dinosaurs such as LKS (DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang), NA (PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat), KS (DAP national chairman Karpal Singh) and Haji H (PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang) would also not be around. "I may be the youngest but I am not young. I want to offer a sense of hope and in keeping to the word that Umno remains relevant. "At some point, Umno would have to face a generation of new leaders in the opposition who are already holding important positions in the parties and state governments. "On our part, we must ask what have we done? What are our strategic plans to continue governing the country? Would we be able to garner more than three million new votes in the next general election? "We must be brave to transform, lest we get transformed," Mukhriz said, while re-using his 'Berani Berubah' (Dare to Change) tagline introduced during his 2008 Umno Youth chief election campaign against incumbent Khairy Jamaluddin. Addressing some 1,000 Umno leaders and members from Kedah, and other states at the hall in his official residence, Mukhriz drew sniggers from the crowd to his reference to Pakatan Rakyat leaders in abbreviations. Having been the last to make his decision known that he was going to join the race for the VP position, the fifth child of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was asked whether being the latter’s son hinged upon his decision. In response, Mukhriz said he had "always been interested in contesting". “He (Mahathir) actually tried to stop me from taking part in politics but among my other siblings, I have always been interested in politics. Perhaps my father’s position as Umno president for 22 years influenced my choice," he said. Nevertheless, Mukhriz told a press conference after announcing the Kedah candidacy that he was happy to prolong his father’s political struggle. The state Umno Kedah liaison chief also confirmed that he would contest the currently vacant Umno Jerlun division chief position. Mukhriz also announced that Energy, Water and Green Technology Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Mahadzir Khalid, and Baling MP Datuk Azeez Rahim would defend their Supreme Council positions. Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Jamil Khir Baharom meanwhile, will be making a debut challenge for the same post on Oct 19. Former Kedah Menteri Besar Tan Sri Sanusi Junid’s son Akramsyah Sanusi also raised eyebrows when his name was thrown into the party polls by party officials this evening. He will go against Khairy for the Umno Youth chief position, while Kedah exco member Datuk Suraya Yaakob has confirmed her intention to battle for the Umno Wanita deputy chief post that was made vacant after predecessor Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim relinquished all party positions. In April, Kamilia resigned from all party positions to contest as an independent in the Kuala Kangsar parliamentary seat in the 13th general election. Suraya is most likely to face a straight-fight with Family, Women’s Development, and Community deputy minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun. The top two Umno positions held by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, respectively, will remain uncontested. The same goes for former minister Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil who is expected to face no challenge for her Wanita Umno chief post.
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