Umno to open even top posts for contest in party polls

All posts in Umno - Malaysia's biggest political party by membership and now the largest in opposition in Parliament - will be open for contest in internal elections which must be held by April next year.

Party polls, usually held every three years, were last held in 2013, and the move announced yesterday by acting Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reverses a longstanding practice where the top two posts of president and deputy president are not contested.

"This is so that the question of no-contests for certain posts in Umno will not surface," he told reporters yesterday after an Umno Supreme Council meeting.

"What's important is not the issue of competition. What's important is the question of how Umno can be strengthened. We're giving all our members the opportunity to step forward," Datuk Seri Zahid said after the Supreme Council meeting. He said acting Umno deputy president Hishamuddin Hussein, who is the former defence minister, also wanted to see the posts contested.

Both men assumed the top party positions after former premier Najib Razak resigned as party president and chairman of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition following its shock defeat in the May 9 polls.

Yesterday, Umno struck an upbeat note, indicating that it was moving forward and settling into its new role in the opposition.

Mr Zahid said the Supreme Council also discussed how the 54 Umno MPs and the 24 others from BN component parties could ensure that all of their own projects would be fulfilled as well.

Mr Zahid said: "We will take steps forward to earn new support, and improve on our weaknesses. We admit that mistakes need to be corrected, and we ask Umno leadership at all levels to come together so we can continue our fight."

Political parties in some countries, he said without naming any, had also lost in polls but had risen again. "We will learn from history and those experiences," he said. And with its 61 years in power over, BN was also looking to restructure "not only in terms of branding, but in the work we do", said Mr Zahid.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, the former youth and sports minister, who earlier this month blamed the lack of democratic practices in the party for the polls loss, has been charged with overseeing this task.

"We will be as inclusive as possible in getting all views from BN and within Umno," he said yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'Umno to open even top posts for contest in party polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe