Despite admiring his courage, the leaders agreed that the veteran politician and former Terengganu mentri besar will face “massive losses” as there was no historical precedent locally of a prime minister losing in any seat he contested.
Pekan Umno leaders were particularly dismissive of Abdul Hadi’s bid, with Najib’s deputy in the division, Datuk Ishak Muhamad, even saying that the PAS president was merely “daydreaming” if he felt he had a chance against the country’s biggest political giant.
He told Sinar Harian in an article today that Pekan, a seat that Najib has held since his first contest in 1976, is a Barisan Nasional (BN) fortress that no opposition leader would find easy to breach.
“This Marang MP (Abdul Hadi) should be more realistic than placing his hope in wresting a seat held by a prime minister.
“Just forget the intention to contest in Pekan because the community here is comfortable and gets enough from the leadership of the party of their choice,” he was quoted as saying by the Malay daily.
Sinar Harian also spoke to Pekan Umno information chief Datuk Abdul Manaf Sulong, who reportedly supported his division deputy chief’s remarks.
Umno leaders outside Pekan echoed the same, with Sabah Umno secretary Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan warning Abdul Hadi that contesting Pekan would spell the “most embarrassing” end to his political career.
“As a party president, if you really want to retire, choose a better way... don’t retire in failure.
“If Hadi stands in Pekan, he will not win but will face massive losses,” he told The Malaysian Insider today.
He said Najib’s position was unlikely to be threatened at all in a potential fight with Abdul Hadi for Pekan, which will likely be touted as one of the most anticipated clash of the titans.
“There is no historical precedence to a serving prime minister losing in a seat he contests. If Hadi wants to create history by embarrassing PAS’s leadership legacy, then I welcome him to the contest,” the Kota Belud MP added.
Pasir Salak MP Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman was more critical of Abdul Hadi, saying it was likely “pride” that inspired the PAS president to announce his preparedness to take on Najib.
The vocal parliamentarian also described Abdul Hadi as unpopular in Pekan.
“Who is Hadi? Pekan folk do not know him... I am confident that he will lose with a large majority,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Johor Umno information chief Datuk Samsul Bari Jamali, however, appeared incredulous at Abdul Hadi’s bid, saying it was likely mere political gimmick and rhetoric from PAS ahead of the coming polls.
He pointed out that if Abdul Hadi truly wanted to contest the seat, as PAS president, there was no need for the latter to wait for the party leadership to decide.
“If you want to contest, do it properly... this only seems like he wants to show his greatness,” he said when contacted.
He added that Abdul Hadi’s published intention to contest in Pekan may merely be a move to boost confidence among PAS members in time for the election.
Abdul Hadi has been active in politics for more than three decades since his entry into the Islamist party in 1978.
The 65-year-old politician was Terengganu mentri besar for one term from 1999 to 2004, before the state fell back into Barisan Nasional (BN) hands in the 2004 general election.
Pekan incumbent Najib, who is also Malaysia’s sixth prime minister, was the Pahang mentri besar between 1982 and 1986, and was also known as the youngest politician to take on the post at 29 years.
The Kuala Lipis-born Najib first entered politics at the age of 22 in 1976, barely five weeks after his father, Tun Abd Razak’s passing in January that year, when he had been elected to fill the Pekan vacancy, making him the youngest MP in Malaysia’s history.
He ascended to the second-highest office in the nation as deputy prime minister in 2004 before moving up to the post of prime minister in April 3, 2009, taking over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who stepped down after leading BN into its worst-ever electoral performance in Election 2008.