News analysis

Umno faces existential crisis as it strives for comeback

Party is out of step with a new Malaysia, has lost ability to hold power through patronage

Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak performing evening prayers at Umno headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 11. Umno has no charismatic leader to replace Mr Najib, who resigned as party president after
Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak performing evening prayers at Umno headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 11. Umno has no charismatic leader to replace Mr Najib, who resigned as party president after the election. Mr Zahid, now the acting president, does not command wide respect within the party ranks.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi spent much of last week in Mecca, performing prayers and day-long fasts observed during the holy month of Ramadan.

He also found time during his stay in Islam's holiest city to hunker down with advisers and political lieutenants for deep discussions - on comeback strategies for Malaysia's largest party Umno after its disastrous performance in last month's election that brought an end to its reign since 1957.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'Umno faces existential crisis as it strives for comeback'. Subscribe