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Tok Mat ‘head and shoulders’ above UMNO contenders

PETALING JAYA: Former federal minister Zaid Ibrahim has backed Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan to lead the party after the next party elections, saying Mohamad is “head and shoulders” above other contenders.

However, Mohamad would need to be backed by former prime minister Najib Razak who, Zaid said, remains “still the most popular man in the country”.

Zaid, who was once a Kelantan Umno leader, said Umno values loyalty to the party’s struggles above everything else.

“And Tok Mat and Najib are head and shoulders above the other pretenders. Hence their popularity,” he told FMT, referring to Mohamad by his popular nickname.

He said the other “pretenders to the throne” stood no chance of taking over the reins of the party from current president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“They have committed the cardinal error of embracing Bersatu without reservations,” Zaid said, referring to the Umno splinter party formed by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin after they left Umno.

Zaid also said that Mohamad has the upper hand as he projected simplicity.

The kind of Umno leader needed by the people, now more than ever, was someone who is not “excessively wealthy”, Zaid said.

“Umno must not be entrapped by wealthy tycoons. They need the likes of Tok Mat who is modest. He will also be moderate in his speeches.”

Zaid’s endorsement of Mohamad comes in the wake of Umno Supreme Council member Johari Abdul Ghani identifying Mohamad as the party’s next leader and possible prime ministerial candidate.

Johari told The Star recently that Mohamad could rank high among the general public.

He also said any change in the party leadership could only occur if Umno found an amicable solution between Najib and Zahid.

Zaid said he believes that Najib and Zahid will be able to iron out matters between them, “because for both of them, Umno’s resurgence and ultimate victory comes first”.

Zaid said Johari, whom he described as a voice of reason in Umno, was spot on with his analysis, and this in turn would augur well for Mohamad as Umno values a technocrat. “They would listen to an objective and knowledgeable politician like Johari.”

He said Umno must agree to a new plan to revive the party; while the state of emergency might mean such plans would be deferred, the day of reckoning would come. “They must be prepared,” he said.

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