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Rafidah declares war on Shahrizat - malaysiakini

Malaysiakini's report

The two leading ladies of ruling party Umno have declared war over the influential post of head of the women's wing, after the grassroots turned against incumbent Rafidah Aziz.


Rafidah, a fiery political veteran who served as trade minister for two decades before being dumped from the cabinet earlier this year, had hoped to hold onto the position until next June.

wanita umno pak lah meet rafidah shahrizat event  040808 05In a transition plan criticised by many in the women's wing, she wanted to be reaffirmed as chief in March party polls before handing over to her deputy Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

Shahrizat had insisted she would not challenge Rafidah, but after being nominated as women's wing chief by dozens of Umno divisions in the run-up to the internal polls, she threw down the gauntlet late yesterday.

"Wanita Umno must be united in strengthening the party and be bold in bringing about change and renewal," she said in a brief statement.

Rafidah, a fearsome character who made a splash on the international stage during her years as Malaysia's trade chief, immediately accepted the challenge and said she would stay on for another three years if successful.

"We will meet in the arena in March," said the "Iron Lady" of Malaysian politics, according to the New Straits Times newspaper.

80 percent rooting for Shahrizat

The state news agency Bernama quoted several Wanita Umno leaders who supported Shahrizat's decision to stage the first contest for the job since 2000.

"Believe me, on the surface, many Wanita Umno division leaders may seem to be supporting Rafidah Aziz. But inside, more than 80 percent of them are for (Shahrizat)," said Senator Sharifah Azizah Syed Zain.

Others said they were still hopeful that Rafidah would agree to bow out in March and avoid yet another battle for a top post in the party, which has been in disarray since unprecedented losses in general elections this year.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has agreed to stand down in March, handing over to his deputy Najib Abdul Razak - triggering an unprecedented showdown for the number-two job.

The influential position of youth wing chief is also up for grabs, with contenders including Abdullah's son-in-law, who is vying against the son of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad -