JOHOR BARU: Former Johor mentri besar Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad is eyeing one of the three vice-president (VP) posts in the Umno party elections that began on Feb 1 and will continue in stages until March 18.Currently a supreme council member, he said he expected a tough fight as he believes other leaders are also eyeing the posts.

“The three posts are the only top positions open for contest,” he told the media after attending a Johor Umno meeting here yesterday chaired by state chairman Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who is also a VP.

The other two incumbents are former prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and former Rural Deve-lopment minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

At press time yesterday, only Mohamed Khaled, who is also Higher Education Minister, had confirmed that he will defend his post in the party polls.

Hasni, who is Simpang Renggam MP and Benut assemblyman, said having more contestants is good for the party.

“Even though some people have been making negative remarks and saying that Umno is no longer relevant, many leaders are still offering themselves as candidates.

“This is a positive sign. It shows that we are not abandoning Umno and have confidence that the party can still play a major role and contribute to nation-building,” he said.

Meanwhile, Umno veteran Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad has announced his retirement after more than 40 years in politics.

The Johor Baru division chief said he would not defend his post, which he has held since the 1980s.

“I feel that this is the right time for me (to retire). I am in my 70s and there are good leaders within the division,” said the former Johor Baru MP, who will turn 74 on Nov 22.

Shahrir said while he does not have any plans yet, he is still looking forward to his retirement.

He first won the Johor Baru parliamentary seat in the 1978 general election and continued defending it until 2018 when he lost to Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir from PKR in the 14th General Election.