Najib urges Umno to 'win big' at elections

Prime Minister Najib Razak delivering his closing speech to Umno delegates at the end of the five-day general assembly yesterday. A resolution was passed last Friday ensuring Datuk Seri Najib and Deputy Premier Ahmad Zahid Hamidi would be unopposed a
Prime Minister Najib Razak delivering his closing speech to Umno delegates at the end of the five-day general assembly yesterday. A resolution was passed last Friday ensuring Datuk Seri Najib and Deputy Premier Ahmad Zahid Hamidi would be unopposed as president and deputy president at the next party polls.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysian Premier says momentum is with ruling BN, with polls due by June

Prime Minister Najib Razak praised Umno's unity ahead of Malaysian elections he said would be called by June, exhorting his ruling party to "win big" as "the momentum is with us" when closing its general assembly yesterday.

The Umno president called on his grassroots to curb infighting ahead of party polls that must also be held next year, and to follow the example of the top leadership who have come to a no-contest pact on the three highest posts. "Ensure a big win for Barisan Nasional (BN)," he said, referring to the Umno-led ruling coalition. "The momentum is with us, the wind is behind us."

The Premier said the 1.6 million mostly-Malay civil servants and the heads of government-linked companies "now support us".

"Many CEOs before this wanted to stay professional so they supposedly could not support us. But now they come forward to support BN because they are confident about our direction," he said.

Asked at a press conference after his speech when the general election will be called, he said: "Everyone knows we have a time limit. No later than June."

Parliament will be dissolved automatically by June 24, if he has not called for polls. The Election Commission will then have 60 days to August to set a polling date.

Umno had entered its five-day assembly last Tuesday with concerns about ambitious warlords focusing on party positions instead of the general election.

But seeing that Datuk Seri Najib is now in full control again of Malaysia's biggest political party after two years of turmoil, they rallied around him and his two top lieutenants. Delegates passed a resolution last Friday ensuring Mr Najib and Deputy Premier Ahmad Zahid Hamidi would be unopposed as president and deputy president at the next party polls.

Mr Najib also heeded the call of delegates to ensure vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein would be retained in that position.

But Mr Najib later told the press the three vice-president posts would be contested next year. He said he hopes Datuk Seri Hishammuddin will receive the most votes.

BN has 132 wards in the 222-seat federal Parliament, 16 short of a two-thirds supermajority. But the Premier did not commit to winning the two-thirds supermajority in his speech, while other leaders, including acting deputy president Datuk Seri Zahid had talked up the prospect.

"God willing we will launch the 2314 wave after this," Mr Zahid said in his winding up speech. The 2314 figure refers to a two-thirds win at the upcoming 14th General Election. Mr Zahid had mentioned the same margin of victory when opening the joint assembly for the party's youth, women's and young women's wings last Tuesday.

Asked about BN winning back the supermajority that it ceded a decade ago, Mr Najib only expressed confidence "that our agenda is better than the opposition's".

"We have plans and we are delivering them. Our success in executing these plans is the proof for the people," he said.

His speech had outlined mega-projects such as the High-Speed Rail to Singapore, the East Coast Rail linking Kuala Lumpur to Pahang and Kelantan in the north-east, and a new MRT line, which was delivered ahead of schedule and cost less than projected.

Mr Najib contrasted BN's successes with opposition promises, which he said were unreliable.

"If you take someone from the past, he doesn't represent the future. He will bring ideas from the past," he said of former premier Mahathir Mohamad who now leads the opposition.

•Additional reporting by Trinna Leong and Nadirah H. Rodzi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 10, 2017, with the headline 'Najib urges Umno to 'win big' at elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe