New Umno chief Zahid pledges to work with defeated rivals

Newly elected Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arriving at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, with his deputy Mohamad Hasan (behind him). Mr Zahid vowed to give his two main challengers key roles, but Mr Khairy said in a tweet he had reje
Newly elected Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arriving at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, with his deputy Mohamad Hasan (behind him). Mr Zahid vowed to give his two main challengers key roles, but Mr Khairy said in a tweet he had rejected an offer to serve as the new secretary-general of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

But Khairy rejects offer of BN post, saying party system must change

Newly elected Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi vowed yesterday to give his two main challengers key roles and adopt their ideas to reform the grand old party that is still reeling from losing a six-decade grip on power.

Datuk Seri Zahid won in the five-way contest after getting the votes of 99 out of 190 Umno divisions - one division had its balloting postponed - under the party's electoral-college system.

Former youth wing chief Khairy Jamaluddin won in 61 wards, and the third candidate, veteran MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, was backed by 30.

Two other contenders, who are low-ranking party members, failed to win any divisions.

Mr Zahid was Umno's most senior official after being promoted to deputy prime minister three years ago, when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked. After former prime minister Najib Razak resigned in May, Mr Zahid became the party's acting president.

Speaking to the media for the first time since winning in the internal polls last Saturday, the Bagan Datuk MP said the party would be restructured to regain its credibility.

"My responsibility is to bring them in and give them a role in taking steps to renew the party," he said, referring to Mr Khairy and Tan Sri Razaleigh. Mr Zahid added that he would consult with other elected leaders in the supreme council - the party's top decision-making body - to try and execute the manifestos of all three presidential candidates in a bid to reform Umno.

REFORMING UMNO

My responsibility is to bring them in and give them a role in taking steps to renew the party.

NEWLY ELECTED UMNO PRESIDENT AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI, on defeated candidates Khairy Jamaluddin and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

The three-million-strong party also elected a new deputy president, former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Mohamad Hasan.

Its three new vice-presidents are former Cabinet ministers Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Mahdzir Khalid, and former Johor menteri besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

Mr Zahid said in the news conference that he met Mr Khairy yesterday morning to discuss "his role in the mainstream organisation".

Mr Khairy tweeted later to say that he has rejected an offer to serve as the new secretary-general of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition.

In earlier tweets yesterday, Mr Khairy said that while he accepted Mr Zahid's victory, "the majority of Umno members want change but the electoral college system favours warlords".

The voting involved some 150,000 members with the votes tallied under the 190 divisions.

 
 
 

"Many were instructed, threatened, forced to follow the choice of warlords. I want Umno to change. Dump the feudal mentality," the former youth and sports minister said. He was referring to the 191 powerful Umno division chiefs who often decide on the party's direction and its purse strings.

Mr Khairy said though he won 61 divisional votes to Mr Zahid's 99, he actually received 32,592 votes from the delegates, against Mr Zahid's 39,197.

"Popular vote statistics show that majority of Umno members want change. But the ballot system is in favour of warlords who have a strong grip on their divisions," tweeted Mr Khairy.

The victory of many established Umno chieftains at the internal polls left others disgruntled.

Outgoing young women's wing chief Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said yesterday that she has quit Umno to be an independent MP due to the lack of new faces among those elected. She is the third Umno MP to leave since the general election in May, leaving Malaysia's largest party with 51 federal lawmakers. The federal Parliament is set to reopen on July 16 with the new batch of 222 MPs.

"We can evaluate from the reaction, sentiment and behaviour of Umno members that it is still suffering denial syndrome. I believe the current leadership still refuses to accept the reality that the public has rejected Umno, instead presuming that Umno was simply a victim of the people's hatred towards Datuk Seri Najib," Datuk Seri Mas said in a statement.

Aside from a supreme council that is long in the tooth, the party polls also failed to offer a contest for the leadership of 74 out of the 191 divisions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2018, with the headline 'New Umno chief Zahid pledges to work with defeated rivals'. Print Edition | Subscribe