KUALA LUMPUR - The acting deputy president of Malaysia's largest party Umno has announced that he will not be contesting in the party's next election in June.
Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, former defence minister and Umno vice-president, said in a statement on Friday (June 8) that he will not contest in any positions at the national level for the coming party elections.
"Instead I will be... focusing on rebuilding the party as a member beginning in Umno's birthplace, Johor," he said.
His decision comes after Umno, and the coalition it leads Barisan Nasional, suffered a shock election defeat in the country's election on May 9, after six decades in power. Mr Hishammuddin has been performing the duties of Umno deputy president since former prime minister Najib Razak stepped down as Umno president following the surprise loss.
"Personally, I feel partly accountable and responsible for this loss," Mr Hishammuddin said. “These results have sent a strong message to Umno, in that business can no longer be as usual, and total change is required to move forward,” he added.
Mr Hishammuddin hails from a political blue-blood family. His father was the former Umno president and Malaysia's third prime minister Hussein Onn, while his grandfather Onn Jaafar was Umno's first president and co-founder. He is also a cousin of Datuk Seri Najib, himself a son of a former prime minister.
When Mr Hishammuddin joins Mr Najib in not being part of Umno’s top echelons, it will mark the first time in Umno’s 72-year history that the party leadership is not dominated by members of the Hussein or Razak family.
Umno, which still commands a fair share of MPs in Parliament with 54 of the 222 seats, faces internal polls on June 30. In a bid to rejuvenate the party after its poor showing at the general election, it has discarded previous practice and thrown open the race for its top leadership.
Noting the vast pool of Umno politicians who have thrown their names into the ring, Mr Hishammuddin described the party election as “a fitting opportunity for Umno to rejuvenate itself by crafting its own leadership line-up”.
“I am aware that many members have offered themselves as candidates to bring Umno ahead, and I believe they should be given the chance to lead,” he remarked.