Muadzam Shah ADUN Dato’ Maznah Mazlan’s literally last minute candidacy for Wanita UMNO Chief race surprised but at the same time provided some glimmer of hope that the nationalist party is moving forward. Now, Pahang UMNO is committed in their endorsement of supporting her nationwide bid.
The Star political analyst Joceline Tan’s take on the situation:
Published: Tuesday September 24, 2013 MYT 7:57:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday September 24, 2013 MYT 7:59:23 AM
Maznah – a classic dark horse
Datuk Maznah Mazlan’s entry into the race for the Wanita Umno leadership has changed the game and incumbent Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil cannot take things for granted.
PAHANG politician Datuk Maznah Mazlan (pic) has turned out to be the classic dark horse in the contest for the Wanita Umno leadership.
She had kept things so close to her chest that even her own Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob had not known about it.
In fact, when her representative walked in with her nomination papers last Saturday, the PWTC team handling the Wanita nominations had already packed up and were sitting there waiting for the 5pm deadline. They had to quickly unpack their stuff to register her candidature. That was how close she was cutting it.
Everyone had assumed that the Wanita leadership contest would boil down to a face-off between incumbent Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil and underdog Raihan Sulaiman who is from the Kulim Bandar Baru division in Kedah.
But Maznah’s 11th hour entry has changed the game for the Wanita leadership race.
Adnan, for one, appears to have changed his stand on the Wanita contest. A couple of weeks ago, he had reportedly endorsed Shahrizat for the top post.
But yesterday, the macho Mentri Besar told an Umno gathering in Temerloh that Pahang would support Maznah. The event was organised by Temerloh Umno chief Datuk Sharkar Shamsudin for delegates who would be voting in the Umno election to meet some of the candidates vying for national posts.
“She did not discuss it with any of us. It was a shock to all of us,” said Sharkar who won his Temerloh chief post uncontested.
Adnan admitted as much during the Temerloh event.
“I only knew about Datuk Maznah’s decision on Saturday evening. She did not consult me but this is a democracy and it is her right to contest,” said Adnan.
There was thunderous applause from the audience when Adnan invited Maznah on stage to give her the Pahang endorsement.
Maznah is not a superstar like Shahrizat but she is certainly more credible than Raihan who has no track record in the wing or even Datuk Azalina Othman Said who has backed out from the contest. Shahrizat will now have to be on her guard.
Both the Wanita ladies and the men in Umno had been lukewarm about Azalina. They simply could not visualise the former Puteri Umno chief as the next Wanita leader.
On the other hand, Maznah, who is currently a Senator, is seen as someone in the Wanita mould.
She is a member of the Wanita exco and has also been an assemblywoman, Pahang exco member and deputy minister.
Yesterday, at her first major press conference since entering the race, Maznah denied that she is a proxy of Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.
She was anxious to dispel the notion that this is a grudge fight between Shahrizat and the camp that had been with Rafidah.
Maznah probably has the support of Rafidah but it is unlikely that Rafidah put her up to the fight. The Iron Lady has no time for petty politics even though she can be very unforgiving of those whom she feels have done her in.
Rafidah had apparently given Azalina a piece of her mind when Azalina sought her support.
She dislikes Shahrizat but not to the extent of simply giving her support to any person challenging Shahrizat.
In fact, the camp that used to support Rafidah had also found it hard to accept Azalina but they will now throw their support behind Maznah.
Both of Maznah’s proposer and seconder were from the Cheras division of Umno and the representative who submitted the nomination papers on her behalf was from the Federal Territory Umno.
The evidence trail seems to lead back to Cheras Umno which is headed by the powerful warlord Datuk Seri Syed Ali Alhabshee who is not on good terms with Shahrizat. Moreover, the former Cheras Wanita chief and now the division treasurer is Datuk Faridah Abu Hassan, who has an axe to grind with Shahrizat.
Maznah is nowhere as popular as Shahrizat. Her PR also falls short when compared to Shahrizat who makes time for all the ladies whether they are somebody or nobodies.
Shahrizat smiles at everybody, exchanges hugs and air kisses with the ladies and stops to chat with everyone even when she is in a hurry. Maznah, according to some of the ladies, sometimes walks past them without even saying hello and little things like this matter in politics.
But Maznah, according to insiders, should be able to capitalise on Shahrizat’s latest headache – the incumbent Wanita chief’s former political secretary Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim is being investigated by the MACC for alleged misappropriation of funds from the 1Azam welfare programme for the poor.
The timing of the investigation is bound to cost her some votes.
The other surprise in the Wanita contest came in the form of Datuk Hamidah Osman joining the fray for the wing’s No. 2 post alongside Sabah’s Datuk Azizah Dun and Datuk Suraya Yaakob of Kedah.
Hamidah is the Wanita information chief and a former Perak assemblywoman and her candidature was not exactly welcomed by Shahrizat’s camp who had endorsed Azizah for the No. 2 post.
Hamidah has been under pressure from the Shahrizat camp to pull out but she is standing her ground.
Some said she jumped in because she was upset by reports alleging that Azalina had been promised the information chief post after the polls. But Hamidah told her friends that she is contesting because the post was vacant and that she intends to be a loyal deputy if she wins.
In the meantime, Shahrizat’s campaign is in full swing. She was campaigning in Seremban on Sunday and many were surprised to see Azalina among the team of women that she brought along.
Azalina has gone from being a challenger to being a member of the Shahrizat juggernaut, and that says a lot about Shahrizat’s political clout.
Pahang UMNO endorsement is very important and strategic in the race. This is because Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak is Pekan UMNO Division Head. Politically, he should show team spirit and go with his home state’s support for Maznah.
There is a more updated twist to the Wanita UMNO democratic process.
As speculated by Miss Tan, one of the runners for the Vice Chief of Wanita UMNO Dato’ Hamidah Osman withdrew her candidacy. It is believed that incumbent Wanita UMNO Chief Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil preferred Deputy Minister for Women and Family Development and Beaufort Wanita UMNO Head Dato’ Azizah Mohd. Dun as her running mate, over Wanita UMNO Information Head Hamidah.
This move is believed to galvanized Wanita UMNO Sabah to rally behind Maznah. It has been said Sabah Wanita UMNO Dato’ Armani Mahiruddin is bent of throwing support behind Maznah and committed to ensure that Sabah Wanita UMNO stands firm with her.
Maznah is in the three corner fight for the Wanita UMNO Chief post. The other candidate is Former Wirawati Perkasa Chief Raihan Sulaiman Palestin. The interesting point is Maznah is the only elected representative as Yang Berhormat ADUN Bandar Muadzam between the three Wanita UMNO Chief aspirants. That very much demonstrated her credibility as a leader.
What is more interesting between Maznah and Shahrizat, the former is someone who is scandal-free. She is also free from controversies.
For the record, Shahrizat was plagued with the NFC scandal, highlighted by PKR Strategist Rafizi Ramli. It drew national outcry, for the charged wrongful utilisation of interest free financial facility provided the Federal Government to a company own by her immediately family, to develop feed meal for the livestock industry.
Her husband Dato’ Seri Dr. Mohd. Salleh Ismail have since been charged for CBT involving the sum of RM 49 million.
What is interesting, when the scandal was first raised by PKR leaders in late 2011 Shahrizat stood on the Wanota UMNO platform in the November 2011 UMNO General Assembly and demanded Wanita UMNO to rally around her and do battle, to what is actually her personal problem.
When public opinion against her dwindled rapidly, Prime Minister Najib had to relieve her from the post as Minister of Women and Family Development to save ther Federal Government from any further embarrassment.
Even though MACC exonerated her from any procurement process for the RM250 million soft loan, the court of public opinion caused by the NFC scandal involving a company owned and controlled by her husband and children also diminished her chance to stand as BN candidate in the 13GE.
The recent public attention drew to her Former Political Secretary Dato’ Suhaimi Ibrahim for allegedly misappropriation in the disbursement of funds under 1Azam program, did add any points to the negative perception of credibility to her integrity, which has already set a record low for a Wanita UMNO Chief.
Since Raihan provided little hope of good leadership to the Wanita UMNO which is the nationalist party’s most tactically important wing, then it is obvious that Maznah is the fairer dark horse.