Malaysia's Umno party elections to be held by April 2019 but dissent over top posts

Umno's acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (right) speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on May 14, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Former ruling party Umno has until April 2019 to hold its Supreme Council elections but there are already dissenting voices on whether the top three posts in Malaysia's largest party should be contested.

Following the shocking defeat of the Umno-led coalition Barisan Nasional in the May 9 general election, former premier Najib Razak resigned from his posts as president of Umno and chairman of BN.

The Malay-dominant party is now helmed by acting president and former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, with former defence minister Hishamuddin Hussein as acting deputy president.

Former Melaka chief ministerAli Rustam said on Saturday (May 19) that the party's top three posts should not be contested in the internal polls in April.

He said that Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid and Datuk Seri Hishamuddin should be confirmed as president and deputy president respectively. He added that former youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin should automatically take one of the three vice-president posts available.

"At the national level, we should endorse these three names as we need to strengthen our party and be more mature to act as an effective opposition," he told reporters at the Umno party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

However, Mr Khairy, who is Umno youth chief, said that no seat should be considered sacred, attributing Umno's election defeat to this practice.

"I think this no-contest business is one of the reasons why people lost faith in us in the first place. It looked like we don't provide the democratic space for our members. We better stop this nonsense of no-contest business," Mr Khairy was quoted as saying by The Malay Mail news site.

On Saturday, Umno announced that the Registar of Societies had granted it an extension of time to hold the Umno supreme council polls, originally due in 2017, to April 19 next year.

"Based on a letter dated October 31, 2017, the Registrar of Societies does not have any objections to allow the election of Umno's supreme council to be held no later than April 19, 2019," Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said in a statement.

He said the annual meetings for the party's branches, women's wing, youth and young women's wing will be held from Saturday (May 19) until Sunday June 10, and that meetings at the division level will be held on June 30.

In April, some Umno members filed a legal suit asking for the party to be declared illegal because it had not held internal polls for nearly five years. The suit was dismissed by the High Court.

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