#Opinion* Status quo for MT as well? Serious?

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IT SEEMS there is a possibility even positions for the Umno Supreme Council (Majlis Tertinggi or MT) will not be contested come party polls at the end of the year. Meaning all the current 20 plus MT members get to keep their positions. Status quo. Well, that is what an Umno insider said, claiming he was told of such a "possibility" by a "seasoned campaigner" as far as Umno elections goes. Strange? Odd? Bizarre even? But to give the benefit of the doubt to Umno, the seasoned campaigner cannot say for sure that would be the case as it was "something he heard from within the party". While if that is uncertain (for now), the one thing certain is the "call" for no top two contests is getting louder by the day. And now the Umno Veterans Club apparently have not only joined in the "fray" but have gone one up with its secretary Datuk Mustapha Yaakub reportedly saying the current three vice-presidents should also not be challenged. If that happens then it would be a first in the party's history. Whether that is something to be proud of or otherwise is debatable, of course. The reasons for the no contests call are the usual – "Umno need to be united, to be strengthened to face GE14, to prevent a team split," etc. We have heard all that before. But now information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan has added a new "dimension" to the "reasons list" by saying no top two contests would be good for the stock market. Well ... Anyway, as we know, the call for the "no top two contest" was first made by supreme council member Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi, out of the blue, so to speak. That got everything rolling. Almost immediately Negeri Sembilan Umno passed a resolution that the president and deputy president should not be challenged. Former NST group editor-in-chief Datuk A Kadir Jasin, in his blog, questioned if that resolution was actually the voice of the members or that of just a handful of leaders in the state. Kadir opined the grassroots must be respected and allowed to make decisions. In short, he is all for contests in Umno. A national level Umno strategist agreed that contests must be held even for the top two posts, in particular at a time when Umno "needs to walk the talk of being a truly democratic and transparent party." And recently Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak had gone on record to say "Umno is open and democratic, unlike other parties". But, that statement somehow did not satisfy the party strategist. "I had expected him to say in no uncertain terms – yes, contests for all posts can or should be held. The usual reasons for no contests shouldn't be used anymore. Why should we give the impression that party elections would mean a split Umno?" said the strategist. He went on to say: "In 2009, we lifted the so-called obstacles for contests, like the quota system and difficult nomination process, and opted for direct voting. These are reforms implemented in the party. But now we say 'no contests'. What signal are we sending to members and to the rakyat as well?" "The perception is that the call for 'no top two contest' in particular are 'orchestrated' – from the first call made by Puad, to the Negeri Sembilan resolution, to the chorus agreeing to the proposal. Rightly or wrongly. "If there's a real need to have a 'no top two contest,' I would suggest a resolution be tabled at branch level – every Umno branch in the country. All members vote by show of hand. Then if the resolution is passed, then it is truly the wish of Umno members and not just the pihak atasan (higher levels)," said the strategist. That would answer Kadir's concerns. And also deal with the "orchestrated" perception. The last time the Umno presidency and deputy presidency were contested was in 1987 when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba were challenged by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Tun Musa Hitam, respectively. That was the big Team A-Team B fight. Mahathir's Team A emerged victorious of course and the strongman "put things in order". Among others, to mount a challenge, especially for the top two posts, became very difficult, if not impossible – all done in the name of party unity and strength. And ironically, Mahathir, who put in place such "election difficulties" in Umno, now wants contests to be held – to "save Umno from being rejected by the Malays". So it seems.