Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mustapa says ready to be Kelantan MB

Tok Pa enjoys widespread grassroots support from Umno in Kelantan.

Umno’s Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed has indicated his readiness to battle the popular Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat for the post of Kelantan mentri besar in the next general election.

The international trade and industry minister told The Malaysian Insider in an interview that “under normal circumstances, whoever is state Umno liaison chief... will lead the state in the event” of victory. Umno lost the state to PAS in 1990.

“Number one, he will be heading the party into elections. That is by convention; that is what happens. In the event we win, then normally he will end up being MB.

“That is the normal route people take but we cannot be pre-empting. That is for the boss to decide. I will follow orders as ‘your obedient servant,’” he said, referring to Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Mustapa, who has been a federal minister since 2004, is widely supported by Umno’s grassroots in the east coast state, where even state opposition leader Datuk Che Alwi Ahmad has indicated that “Tok Pa,” as he is popularly known, is the party’s MB-designate.

Pengkalan Chepa Umno Youth division chief Che Othman Che Wil told The Malaysian Insider recently that despite PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz’s continuing popularity since first helming the state in 1990, “there is no clear succession plan in PAS, but Umno, we have Tok Pa and no arguments there; he is our choice for MB.”

He also said Mustapa’s “squeaky-clean” and “scandal-free” image will help shore up voter support, and the party has made it a point to burnish the minister’s credentials “every chance” they get in forums and even public events.

Mustapa, who is also Jeli MP, has been working with Umno officials on its “Gelombang Merah” campaign to take back the state it lost over two decades ago.

He is an economist, holding a first class honours degree in Economics from University of Melbourne, Australia and a Masters in Economic Development from the Boston University.

It is understood that even PAS officials are worried about succession in the state, pointing out that Nik Aziz turns 80 this year without a successor in sight.

There have been hints of a power struggle but the Islamist party has shown enough discipline to keep the issue under wraps.

Mustapa was also the clear candidate for MB in 2004 when he won the Ayer Lanas state seat but Umno fell just one seat short of a majority in the state assembly.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Awang Adek Hussin took over as MB-designate in 2008 but Umno won just six of 45 seats, handing PAS a two-thirds majority in the assembly.

Despite winning most of the seats, the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact only got 56 per cent of the popular vote to BN’s 43 per cent in Kelantan in Election 2008, pushing Umno to believe it can retake the Malay heartland state in the next general election.

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