Now the real test: state elections

“Contrary to the conclusion of political observers, the new line-up of Umno vice-presidents actually represented two groups within the party. Two of them are considered the ‘president’s men’,”


Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail generated a buzz among political observers when the Pahang menteri besar obtained the highest number of votes during the recently-concluded Umno vice-presidential race.

The Jelai assemblyman polled 52,202 votes from 127 party divisions to enable him to secure a spot as one of the three Umno vice-presidents for the 2023/26 term.

The number of votes amassed speaks volumes of his popularity among the roughly 190,000 delegates who cast their ballots during Saturday’s party election.

While observers were surprised that Wan Rosdy defeated other hopefuls for the post, party insiders were not.


They expected such an outcome since he was said to have received the backing of Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.


Wan Rosdy is one of the two new faces in the line-up of Umno vice-presidents, the other being Federal Territories Umno chief Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin is the only incumbent Umno vice-president who successfully defended his post, receiving the second highest number of votes, from 116 divisions.

“Contrary to the conclusion of political observers, the new line-up of Umno vice-presidents actually represented two groups within the party. Two of them are considered the ‘president’s men’,” a party veteran said, referring to Wan Rosdy and Khaled.

“In the case of Wan Rosdy, his position as the Pahang menteri besar may have helped him to win the support of delegates from the east coast, especially the 14 Umno divisions in Pahang.

“By tradition, those helming Umno vice-president posts represented different regions in the country. (Former prime minister Datuk Seri) Ismail Sabri’s (Yaakob) decision not to defend his Umno vice-president post created a void that needed to be filled by a leader from the east coast states.

“Being the only candidate from Pahang created an easy path for Wan Rosdy in the Umno vice-presidential race.”

While Wan Rosdy came as a surprise to outsiders, Khaled was widely expected by all to return as vice-president, a post he has helmed since 2013.

That he retained the Kota Tinggi parliamentary constituency for Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 15th General Election (GE15) and his appointment as a full minister in the unity government was the boost needed to retain the post.


“Early this year, Zahid appointed Khaled to replace (former Johor menteri besar Datuk Seri) Hasni (Mohamed) — another Umno vice-presidential hopeful from Johor — as the state Umno chief.

“This is seen as an endorsement from the party president for Khaled, which helped him to secure votes from the majority of the 26 Umno divisions in Johor and other parts of the country,” said the party veteran.

He said Johari, who is seen as a representative from the “independent” camp in Umno, was a favourite among party delegates.

Interestingly, Johari received a lower number of votes from divisions, but in terms of “popular” votes, the Titiwangsa member of parliament actually polled higher — 47,624 to Khaled’s 46,141.

“It is apparent that Johari commands the support of the majority of delegates based in the central region. His election reflected the aspiration of the grassroots to have a technocrat as one of the three Umno vice-presidents.

“As chairman of the government’s Backbenchers Club, Johari has been vocal when it comes to bread-and-butter issues affecting the people, and he is well-versed in economics.

“His capabilities received recognition not only from people within Umno, but also outside the party, and this was reflected when he was appointed by the prime minister to lead a task force to resolve issues related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd,” another party insider said.


Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s failure to break the party tradition of a line-up dominated by male leaders created a lot of debate, with narratives centred on Umno’s refusal to embrace the ability of female leaders for top positions in the party.

Insiders, however, pointed out that such a narrative was incorrect.

“In fact, Azalina is one of the party president’s ‘men’. Perhaps her chances of winning the contest would have been better if she remained as a government backbencher,” said the Umno veteran.

From the feedback gathered on the ground, he said, delegates felt that Azalina did not “walk the talk” after she was appointed the minister in the prime minister’s department (law and institutional reform).

“For example, she was vocal towards the then prime minister (Ismail Sabri) over his decision to retain the attorney-general (Tan Sri Idrus Harun). (So, the current government’s) decision to extend the services of the same attorney-general was a slap in the face for Azalina.”

Political analyst Dr Ainul Adzellie Hasnul, nevertheless, said the new line-up of Umno vice-presidents would provide the boost needed by the party as it gears towards preparing for the upcoming state elections.

“The new line-up is a combination of new and old faces. I believe all of them have what it takes to breathe new life into Umno.

“Their first test shortly after their appointment to the post is the upcoming state elections,” he said.