In full control of Umno again, PM Najib tells party to 'win big' in general election

Prime Minister Najib Razak called on his grassroots not to squander the opportunity, but to follow the example of the top leadership who have come to a no-contest pact on the three highest posts. PHOTO: UTUSAN ONLINE

KUALA LUMPUR - 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 on Saturday (Dec 9).

The Umno president called on his grassroots not to squander the opportunity with infighting ahead of a party poll that must also be held next year, but 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."

It is unclear if he was referring to June 24 when parliament will be dissolved automatically, or when balloting will be held. The Election Commission will have 60 days to August to set a polling date after parliament is dissolved.

Umno had entered its last annual congress before the national polls concerned 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 caused by a financial scandal, they rallied around him and his two top lieutenants.

Delegates passed a resolution on Friday (Dec 8) 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 - his cousin - would be retained in that position.

"Without a doubt, we are fully ready (for the elections). We have settled the question of leadership - number one, two, three has been settled. Datuk Hisham number three, settled. Done deal," he said to applause.

"Now at the division level, please also make peace. I know some don't even talk to each other. Please settle it for the sake of the Umno family."

However, Mr Najib later told reporters that the three vice-president posts would be contested next year. He hopes Datuk Seri Hishammuddin will receive the most number of votes in such a contest, giving him the position of senior vice-president. "He has my full support," the president declared.

BN currently 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.

"God willing we will launch the 2314 wave after this," Mr Zahid said in his winding up speech just before Mr Najib took the rostrum.

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 youth, women's and young women's wings on Tuesday.

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

"We have plans and we are delivering them. Our success in executing these plans is the proof for the people," he told reporters after the assembly ended.

His speech had outlined megaprojects such as the High-Speed Rail to Singapore, the East Coast Rail linking Kuala Lumpur to Pahang and Kelantan in the northeast, and a new MRT line which was delivered ahead of schedule and cost less than projected despite carving out 48 per cent of tender awards for Malay contractors.

Mr Najib contrasted BN's successes against opposition promises, which he said were unreliable as their leaders and agenda were constantly changing like "a cartoon - this is not governing seriously".

"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 Dr Mahathir Mohamad who leads the opposition.

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