Umno annual assembly: Why it is important in Malaysia politics?

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivering his speech at the convention in PWTC during the opening of the Federal Territories Umno convention at the Putra World Trade Centre, the last of the 13 state-level meets before the ruling party heads int
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivering his speech at the convention in PWTC during the opening of the Federal Territories Umno convention at the Putra World Trade Centre, the last of the 13 state-level meets before the ruling party heads into a key national-level annual general assembly. -- PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY PUBLICATION

Malaysia's ruling Umno party will hold its annual general assembly from Nov 25-29. Here are five reasons why the event is important in the country's politics:

1. Umno is the biggest political organisation in Malaysia, with a claimed membership of 3.4 million.  Just over half of the country's population of nearly 30 million are Malays, which means one in five Malays is an Umno member. The party also has non-Muslim Bumiputera members in  Sabah and Sarawak. The second biggest political group in Malaysia is Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) with about one million members.  

2. Umno has the most number of seats in the national Parliament - 88 out of 222 seats, or 40 per cent of the total number. It forms the Barisan Nasional (BN) with its allies and the coalition has a total of 134 seats and has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.

3. Umno leaders hold 18 of 34 Cabinet posts, or 53 per cent of the total number, including that of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Most of them are members of Umno's decision-making Supreme Council. This means an issue agreed upon by Umno delegates at the annual general assembly will often be adopted by the Supreme Council and later become national policy.

4.Umno leaders hold the top state portfolio of chief minister or menteri besar in nine of the 10 states ruled by BN.  In Sarawak, where Umno does not have a branch, its chief minister is from BN ally Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (United Bumiputera Heritage Party). 

5. The opening speech by Umno president Najib Razak, who is also Prime Minister, and wrap-up speeches by Umno top leaders are broadcast live on television and radio. Typically, the only other live broadcast of Mr Razak's speech would be during the Budget or major events like the disasters involving Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and MH17 this year.