SOME claimed it was a divine signal from above. Others found it somewhat fishy while the more rational-minded thought it was simply uncanny.
They were all talking about the assignment of ballot numbers for those contesting for posts in next month’s Umno elections on Tuesday at the Putra World Trade Centre.
Umno circles are abuzz over the way certain leading favourites in the elections have uncannily picked the number “1” while the underdogs have ended up with the lesser and less glamorous numbers.
Muslims are not into numerology the way the Chinese are. But in an election as important as the one ahead, the number “1” assumes added significance even where there may be none.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, normally so poker-faced, must have grinned from ear to ear when he learnt that he had drawn No. 1 in the three-cornered fight for the deputy president’s post.
His rivals Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib took the No. 2 and No. 3 slots respectively.
All three were not present but their representatives made the draw, which was conducted ala lucky draw style, on their behalf.
An excited murmur rippled through those gathered in the hall when the order of numbers was announced for deputy president post.
But the excitement grew quite palpable when the ballot numbers for the eight vice-presidential contenders took place.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the clear favourite, actually secured the No. 1 placing, followed by Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.
Shafie and Dr Rais, according to word going around on the ground, also happen to be the personal choices of the incoming president.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the papers. I’m not into numerology and all that jazz, but it has to be more than just coincidence,” said Khairuddin Mat Zain, an Umno member from Wangsa Maju.
Khairuddin, who was until recently part of the Youth wing, was naturally disappointed that outgoing Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein had drawn No. 8.
“But my Chinese friends say that ‘8’ is a lucky number,” he said.
However, the coincidence that took the cake was the draw for the three candidates eyeing the Umno Youth leadership.
Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir drew No. 1, Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo No. 2 and Khairy Jamaluddin No. 3.
It matched the order by which the three were placed during the nomination stage. And as Mukhriz’s supporters hope, the way the race will turn out.
“We aren’t superstitious but it is a morale booster for us,” said a Mukhriz aide.
It does seem like the contest may have narrowed down to Mukhriz versus Dr Khir, especially after the televised debate involving the three men.
Dr Khir lived up to his moniker of the dark horse because he was, much to everyone’s surprise, the most impressive of the three.
In the Wanita Umno contest, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s supporters were not too pleased that she drew No. 2 to Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz’s No. 1.
However, Shahrizat’s ally Raja Ropiaah Raja Abdullah drew No. 1 in the supreme council race where 51 people are vying for 25 seats.
The intellectual Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah who narrowly lost out in the supreme council race in 2004, drew No. 2 and he is hoping that it signifies better luck this time around.
Former Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid drew No. 51, the final number among the supreme council names.
His supporters are probably keeping their fingers crossed that it does not mean the end of the road for this affable politician.
Kedah politician Datuk Rosnah Majid said it best: “It’s fun, that’s all.” With just about a month more to go before polling day, everything matters.
Supporters of some candidates had even prayed the night before for their men to secure a good ballot number.
Some people are said to have grown so desperate about their chances, they have turned to more esoteric sources for help.
For instance, there has been much discussion about a close aide of a candidate going for a key post who has not been seen in town the last few days.
Supporters from the rival camp are suggesting that the person has gone to either Indonesia or Thailand to seek the services of a bomoh.
Bomoh inputs are not unheard of although their consultancy has decreased over the years. And even when it comes to bomoh services, foreign is apparently still better than home-grown.
But given that this election will usher in a new president in Umno who will go on to become the next Prime Minister, it may be more pertinent to be associated with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak than with a top number or a powerful bomoh.