Zahid admits Umno to face tough fight in Penanti

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, April 23- Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi now faces an immediate task of preparing the party towards the Penanti by-election now that he has been appointed as the new Umno Penang state liaison chief replacing former party president Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

This task however, admits Zahid, won’t be easy.
At the moment, Zahid said Umno has yet to decide if it wanted to contest or not but said that the matter would be referred to the party’s political bureau where a decision is expected to be announced by the party president soon.
“The reality is, Penanti is a fortress for the opposition but if the party’s political bureau decides that we should contest there, I will face it,” he told reporters here today.
Penanti, a state constituency, falls under the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat, an indomitable opposition stronghold helmed by PKR advisor, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
But Zahid said he is confident that he is the right man for the job and said that although Penanti is a fortress for Pakatan Rakyat, the battle there is far different from the past by-elections.
Penanti has a 70 percent Malay population, something Zahid believes Umno can capitalise on as compared to other by-elections in which BN lost due to the swing of non-Malay votes.
However, Zahid said the Penanti issue was not discussed at today’s first supreme council meeting, the first to be held under the leadership of its new president, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak but said that the matter would be referred to the political bureau in the immediate future.
Zahid, among others, became part of Najib’s ‘purgatory’ plan for the party’s supreme council which saw many of the old state liaison chiefs dropped and replaced by his supporters.
Commenting on his appointment, Zahid said although he is honored, there is no time for him to gloat in joy as he has been given a heavy task of strengthening the party in the state that is controlled by Pakatan Rakyat.
“I am honoured by the appointment but a heavy task awaits me. I will consult with other Umno leaders including Abdullah on how we can unite the Malays in the state and also consult with BN component party leaders to see how we can consolidate the party there,” he said.
He added that his main focus now is to regain the trust of the voters in the state.