Hishammuddin to sit out Umno polls

Mr Hishammuddin Hussein (left) says he wants to focus on rebuilding Umno as a member, while former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (right) has said he wants to step up as the next party president.
Mr Hishammuddin Hussein (left) says he wants to focus on rebuilding Umno as a member, while former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (right) has said he wants to step up as the next party president.PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Son of former prime minister and cousin of ex-PM Najib will not contest June 30 election

The acting deputy president of Malaysia's largest party, Umno, has said he will not be contesting the party's June 30 election.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's former defence minister and Umno vice-president, said in a statement yesterday that he will not be standing for any position at the national level.

"Instead I will be... focusing on rebuilding the party as a member from Umno's birthplace, Johor," he said.

His decision comes after Umno, and the coalition it leads, Barisan Nasional, suffered a shock defeat in the country's general election on May 9, after six decades in power.

Mr Hishammuddin has been performing the duties of Umno deputy president since former prime minister Najib Razak stepped down as party president following the loss.

"Personally, I feel partly accountable and responsible for this loss," Mr Hishammuddin said.

"These results have sent a strong message to Umno, in that business can no longer be as usual, and total change is required to move forward," he added.

Mr Hishammuddin hails from a political blue-blood family. His father was former Umno president and Malaysia's third prime minister Hussein Onn, while his grandfather Onn Jaafar was the party's first president and co-founder.

He is also a cousin of Datuk Seri Najib, himself a son of former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak.

When Mr Hishammuddin joins Mr Najib in not being part of Umno's top echelon, it will mark the first time in the party's 72-year history that the Umno leadership will not be dominated by members of the Hussein or Razak family.

Umno, which still commands a fair share of MPs in Parliament with 54 of the 222 seats, faces internal polls at the end of the month.

In a bid to rejuvenate the party after its poor showing at the May general election, it has discarded previous practice and thrown open the race for its top leadership.

Noting the vast pool of Umno politicians who have thrown their names into the ring, Mr Hishammuddin described the party election as "a fitting opportunity for Umno to rejuvenate itself by crafting its own leadership line-up".

"I am aware that many members have offered themselves as candidates to bring Umno ahead, and I believe they should be given the chance to lead," he said.

Current Umno acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who took over the helm after Mr Najib stepped down, has said he wants to step up as the next Umno president.

At least one other leader, meanwhile, has said he is keen to contest the deputy president's post, even before Mr Hishammuddin said he will not be contesting - former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Mohamad Hasan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2018, with the headline 'Hishammuddin to sit out Umno polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe