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Badawi says ‘no’ to PRU13, struggle begins within UMNO

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — At least two Umno leaders are scrambling for the Kepala Batas federal seat as incumbent Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has declined Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s offer to defend the seat, a move seen as the prime minister’s way to keep winnable seats and regain the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) two-thirds majority.

Kepala Batas Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican and former Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines, Datuk Seri Ibrahim Saad, the former Tasik Gelugor MP and deputy minister, are in the running to replace Abdullah , who has kept the seat since 1978.

“Ibrahim seems to have the upper hand with his old boys network while Reezal is seen as a mamak,” a source told referring to Reezal’s South Indian Muslim ancestry.

“But Pak Lah wants Reezal to replace him,” said the source, referring to the former prime minister’s moniker.

It is learnt that some Umno people are not comfortable with Reezal’s candidature due to his ancestry and the fact that adjoining seat is represented by Tan Sri Mohd Nor Yackop, who is also of South Indian ancestry.

Ibrahim, who was Penang deputy chief minister when BN ruled the state, is seen as a frontrunner as he is seen to be close to Najib. Both were members of the Wawasan Team that swept through the Umno party elections in 2004.

It was reported in February that the former prime minister has been approached to defend the seat as the amiable leader is one of the “winnable candidates” sought by Umno president and PM Najib.

Abdullah, who was prime minister from 2003 to 2009, won the Kepala Batas seat for the eighth time in 2008 with a majority of 11,246 votes when he polled 23,445 against PAS’s Subri Mohd Arshad who garnered 12,199 votes.

Analysts and critics say Najib wants to ensure an all-out victory although it is difficult for the country’s sixth prime minister to match his predecessor’s performance in the 2004 and 2008 elections.

Abdullah won 91 per cent of the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat in Parliament in 2004 but lost the two-thirds majority when his coalition only took 140 federal seats and eight of the 13 state assemblies in 2008.

Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin have spent the past few months criss-crossing the country to gauge BN’s readiness for the general election, which must be called by the middle of 2013. PR parties have said they will not call for snap polls in the four states they control until after this month.

Analysts have predicted that BN will call for the election before or after tabling the Budget 2013 this September 28 as it needs time to get the goodies to the ground.

BN is also seen to delay elections as it tries to overcome a scandal involving cattle-farming project National Feedlot Centre (NFC) where the family of Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil have been accused of abusing a RM250 million soft loan for their own ventures. – The Malaysian Insider