OF TODAY'S announcements by UMNO, the one that interests most people is whether Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will defend his post as party president, or step aside and allow members to chose their new leader.
The decision is expected in less than three weeks time, by Oct 9 to be precise. While everything seems to suggest that Abdullah may not seek re-election, it will all depend on whether he gets sufficient show of real support from grassroot leaders, ie, the division chiefs.
The 191 Umno divisions have until Nov 9 to stage their annual meetings from Oct 9.
If he gets a reliable indication from at least 58 divisions, Abdullah can then decide whether to stand his ground and defend his position. But from my personal standpoint, I don't see him seeking re-election even if he gets the 58 nominations.
As Umno president, even with 58 nominations as a given handicap by way of quota, Abdullah may still find it difficult, if not impossible, to offer himself as a candidate.
Legally speaking, he has the right to contest if he gets the 58 required. But morally, an Umno president not getting nominations from every division, is less than acceptable and will be seen as almost a rejection.
With the mood on the ground as it is, Abdullah may well be advised not to seek re-election and be contented with holding on to his top post till March '09 when the deferred assembly is held.
Some may argue that the compromise, if it can be called one, will render Abdullah ineffective between now and March. This need not be so if he uses the remaining months to dig in and do his work.
The Umno supreme council which met today seemed quite satisfied with the decision. Senior council members have even begun describing Abdullah as unselfish, magnanimous even!
Abdullah, who is BN chairman and Prime Minister, have been under siege to step down. He has been under fire from many quarters, not least from his Cabinet members and colleagues in the supreme council.
Not every council member is happy with the decision. Under the circumstances, and mindful of Umno's tradition and culture, this is perhaps the most reasonable decision that can be made or expected.