Pak Lah tries to convince Umno members to back Wan Farid

By Adib Zalkapli, The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi hit the campaign trail yesterday for the first time, meeting party members to defend his choice of candidate, Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, and admitting that it was Umno members that have been attacking the former deputy minister.

The Prime Minister, who is slated to leave office by the end of March, found himself trying to convince Umno members to support their own candidate.

"I have heard a lot of things said about our candidate. But what is unusual is that it is Umno members who have been saying things about him, but we have to defend our candidate," said Abdullah to hundreds of Terengganu Umno Wanita leaders on Thursday night in an effort to convince the party that Wan Farid was not a bad choice.

Last night, he denied perceptions that the Kuala Terengganu Umno chief is arrogant.

"If he was arrogant he would not have been appointed my political secretary," said Abdullah.

Wan Farid, who resigned as deputy minister to contest the by-election, will face Pas's Abdul Wahid Endut and an independent, Azharudin Adam, in the January 17 vote.

The by-election, which was called following the death BN's Datuk Razali Ismail in late November, is widely seen as a referendum on Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership but the selection of Wan Farid as the candidate shows that Abdullah is still in control of the party.

Abdullah also reminded Wanita leaders to remain focussed on the by-election and not to be bogged down by the party election.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Umno president had to explain to party workers that Wan Farid was a serious candidate who had sacrificed a lot for the party with his resignation from the government and the Senate, a point which he repeated to the Wanita Umno leaders.

He then spoke at length about his last minute reform efforts where he managed to get the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission Bill and Judicial Appointment Commission Bill, which were initially opposed by the dominant party in BN, passed by Parliament.

He again denied that the reform laws were introduced in a hurry.