KUALA LUMPUR • More than 150,000 delegates of Malaysia's largest political party Umno voted yesterday for the chiefs of its three wings as the party tries to rebound from its shock defeat in last month's general election.
Delegates from more than 20,000 party branches cast their votes to decide who will lead the Malay nationalist party's Youth, Wanita (women) and Puteri (young women) wings at their respective division meetings.
Nine candidates contested the Youth chief post that was vacated by Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, who is gunning for the position of Umno president. They included current vice-chief Khairul Azwan Harun, Supreme Council member Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, Pahang Youth chief Mohd Shahar Abdullah and the controversial Sungai Besar division chief Jamal Yunos.
Three candidates were in the running to lead the influential Wanita wing. These were former Wanita leader Siti Zaharah Sulaiman, state assemblywoman Noraini Ahmad and vice-chairman Azizah Mohd Dun of Wanita Barisan Nasional (BN).
Meanwhile, the post of Puteri chief was a two-way race between vice-chief Zahida Zarik Khan and executive committee member Nor Hazreena Mohamad Hashim.
The results for these had not come in as at press time.
Leaders at divisional levels were also chosen.
Former prime minister Najib Razak, who stepped down as the party president after leading BN to its first defeat in six decades, won the post of Umno chief in his constituency of Pekan uncontested. Meanwhile, his eldest son Mohd Nizar was elected Pekan Umno Youth chief after he ran uncontested as well.
Other senior leaders who won their divisions uncontested were acting Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein and former international trade and industry minister Mustapha Mohamed.
Elections to the party's Supreme Council, including the posts of president and deputy president, will be held this Saturday.
Four people have entered the race against 65-year-old Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid.
Besides former minister Mr Khairy, 42, a surprise entrant to the contest, they include veteran leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 81. Popularly known as Ku Li, he served as finance minister from 1976 to 1984.
In an interview with Astro Awani on Friday, Mr Ahmad Zahid said the party had to face the reality of its defeat at the May 9 election and eradicate the culture of warlords and money politics to earn the people's trust in the party and that of its own members.
He noted that Umno still commanded significant Malay support.
He also said Umno has to change its DNA from being the government to the opposition, in terms of its spirit, approach and activities.
"Maybe we have always been in the comfort zone. Although we still have Pahang and Perlis, the fact is we are now left with only two states and the 'opposition DNA' has to be implanted now," he said.
Meanwhile, Tengku Razaleigh said that the party will have to undergo a clean-up and renewal to redeem itself.
The Kelantan prince added that the party must give priority to changing its leadership style, as Umno leaders have been labelled by the people as being "arrogant, too elitist and difficult to make appointments with".
"We want to ensure that the party's policies can cure Umno, particularly in the aspect of integrity," he told reporters on Thursday night.
"(Umno leaders and members must) try to behave, not engage in things disliked by the people, such as corruption and so on."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BERNAMA