PETALING JAYA: Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is the favourite to win the Umno presidential contest tomorrow, even as the party continues reeling from its electoral defeat last month with calls for fresh faces to take over at the top, according to a poll by think tank Ilham Centre.
The poll reveals that Zahid enjoys some 51% of support, followed by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (35%) and Khairy Jamaluddin (6%). It is still unclear how 8% of Umno divisional delegates will vote.
But Ilham Centre said Razaleigh, the veteran Umno leader from Kelantan, is fast catching up with Zahid as calls for old heads to roll in the party gather momentum.
Its executive director Hissomudin Bakar said such sentiments would work against Zahid and Khairy, the former Umno Youth chief.
“The blame game directed against the current leaders including Zahid and Khairy is increasingly giving the edge to Razaleigh.
“It does not show Razaleigh’s strength, but is more about sentiments and emotions,” he added.
The poll, conducted over eight days up to yesterday among 581 Umno delegates from 101 divisions nationwide, also found that members were increasingly critical of top leaders.
“The morale of Umno members and delegates is clearly at its lowest,” said Hisommudin.
Zahid is locked in a battle with Razaleigh and Khairy in Umno’s first presidential election since the divisive contest of 1987 which saw Razaleigh narrowly defeated by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Two other lesser known candidates for the contest are Mohamed Iqbal Maricair and Yusof [email protected], whom Ilham says will not have any effect on the results of the polls.
Hissomudin said while Khairy and Razaleigh had offered to rejuvenate the party, many delegates would go along with Zahid for his loyalty.
“This is based on the grassroots’ view that Zahid is someone whose loyalty has been tested in Umno’s struggle,” he said, adding that Zahid’s “religious” image was also a factor in his popularity.
Meanwhile, Hissomudin said Umno delegates viewed Razaleigh as someone who could give Mahathir a run for his money.
His supporters view him as a leader who is “free of scandals” and not associated with the Najib Razak administration, he added.