KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s controversial former premier has announced that he is stepping down as Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman and Umno president with immediate effect after the BN coalition suffered a disastrous defeat in the 14th General Election.
He described his decision as a moral responsibility, while attributing the loss to “perception”.
“Umno and BN were defeated badly so I, as Umno president and BN chairman, will step down. Anyone who is the leader and failed, it is the responsibility of that person to accept defeat. With an open heart, I accept it,” he said.
“There is much to repair even though much (of our loss) can be blamed on perception and not reality, but this is the name of the game in politics. This is why we are sad with what has happened but because we are democratic, we accept this with open hearts,” he told reporters at Umno headquarters at the Putra World Trade Centre on Saturday (May 12).
Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will take over the duties of BN chairman and Umno president, while former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein will take on the duties of deputy president of Umno and deputy chairman of BN.
Mr Najib, 64, then urged all Umno and BN members to give their support and trust to the new leadership to ensure that the coalition is able to overcome any serious challenges.
“At the same time, take positive measures to bring back the rakyat’s support for Umno and BN,” he said.
“I take this opportunity to thank all Umno members who have supported and trusted me since I became president of the party.
“This defeat is an opportunity to better ourselves even though this is more on perception. I assure you that I will not leave Umno and I will continue to support Umno and BN,” he said.
Earlier on Saturday Mr Najib was barred from leaving the country after he announced plans to take a short holiday following the shock defeat in this week's general election. He was planning to travel to Indonesia.
Mr Najib had said he was taking a short break "to spend time with my family whom I have not seen enough of in recent years".
Daggers were out for the former premier from Friday, with several Umno leaders calling for reform and hinting about appointing a new party president during the party's internal elections, which will likely be held by year end.
Umno Youth from seven states have called on Mr Najib to step down from a post he has held since 2008, when he won uncontested at party elections.
BN suffered a shocking defeat on Wednesday night in the country's 14th general election, winning only 79 seats in Parliament, a sharp drop from the 133 seats won in 2013.
Also present at Mr Najib's announcement were Umno youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, Puteri Umno chief Datuk Mas Emieryati Samsudin, Umno executive secretary Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh and Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.