KUALA LUMPUR • Umno vice-president and acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will take part in a televised debate against two of the party's presidential hopefuls on Friday, a day before the party elections.
Datuk Seri Zahid had previously said he would not participate in the debate as he felt the party's internal problems should not be discussed in public.
His main rivals, Umno Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin and veteran politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, had earlier agreed to the debate, which will be telecast live over the Astro Awani news channel and is scheduled to begin at 9.30pm on Friday.
The debate is a first for Malaysia's largest and oldest political party, which has a longstanding practice of not even having a contest between the top two posts of president and deputy president in its internal elections.
These changes come as the party seeks to rebound from its shock defeat in the May 9 general election, which saw the Malay nationalist party and its Barisan Nasional coalition allies being ousted by the Pakatan Harapan alliance .
Mr Zahid, who is currently carrying out the duties of party president following the resignation of former prime minister Najib Razak, said he would only debate from his Bagan Datuk constituency in Perak as he had to be with his delegates that night for the election process the next day.
FOR THE PEOPLE
If it is not meant to split Umno into two or three, then I am willing to be in a telecast from Bagan Datuk as I have never neglected my people.
MR AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI, in an interview with Astro Awani last Friday
"If it is not meant to split Umno into two or three, then I am willing to be in a telecast from Bagan Datuk as I have never neglected my people," he said in an interview with Astro Awani last Friday.
Mr Zahid also said he would not cast aside his two challengers if he obtained the mandate as president in the party election on Saturday as both Mr Khairy's and Tengku Razaleigh's views were important to revive the party.
"If I am given the mandate, I will not cast these two people aside, I will bring them along with me to revive the spirit of Umno, to build up strength in the new Umno brand," he said.
Mr Zahid said he was determined to eradicate money politics and the warlord culture which became part of the party for 40 years.