See More on Facebook

News, Politics

After a bruising defeat, Malaysia’s Umno opts to maintain status quo

Malaysia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is elected as the 8th president of Umno.

Written by

Updated: July 3, 2018

Once the backbone of Barisan Nasional, the coalition which helmed Malaysia in one form or another since independence, the country’s largest party, Umno, is scrambling to forge a path forward after the opposition Pakatan Harapan’s shock victory in the May 9 election.

On Saturday (June 30), about 146,000 delegates in 191 divisions went to the polls to determine who will take over Umno’s top posts, including the top job of party president, The Star reported.

Deputy Prime Minister to former premier Najib Razak, Umno’s acting president Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was named the party’s new president after winning 93 votes. His main rivals, former Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, bagged 51 and 23 votes respectively, according to Bernama.

The change of leadership comes at a turbulent time for Umno. Barisan Nasional, the coalition in which it once played a dominant role, has all but disintegrated, rapidly sliding from 13 parties to the three original members that made up its predecessor, the Alliance party. Umno’s former chief, Najib, is currently under investigation in the multibillion dollar 1MDB scandal that brought down his government and the party’s accounts have been frozen as investigations continue. Its newly-minted president, Zahid, is also being questioned on the matter.

Prior to Saturday’s polls, Ahmad Zahid pledged sweeping reforms to the party structure to shed its elitist image and to boost accountability, The Star reported.

“In this new era, the rakyat does not want any barrier between them and the Umno leadership,” he is quoted in The Star as saying.

Ahmad Zahid also vowed to make it more inclusive stating that, “members should feel free to voice out any discontent, and the leadership must be ready to absorb it without any protocol or aloofness.”

Despite the promised reforms, not everyone is happy with the outcome of Umno’s election.

Former Puteri Umno chief Mas Ermieyati Samsudin recently left the party over its failure to appoint new leaders, stating that she had hoped that Umno would be steered in a “new direction” during the polls, the Star reported.

“I hoped to see Umno members choose at least 70 per cent of fresh faces as leaders, but that did not happen,” she said, according to The Star.

“What sort of election is this, if the virus is left to spread and the medicine is too bitter to swallow,” said Mas on Sunday.

Unsuccessful candidate Khairy took to twitter to air his complaints, accusing “warlords” of skewing the results.

“Popular vote statistics show that majority of Umno members want change. But the ballot system is in favour of warlords who have a strong grip on their divisions,” Khairy tweeted on Sunday (July 1), according to The Star.

“Many were ordered, threatened, and forced to support the choices of the warlords,” he claimed.

Zahid has dismissed Khairy’s claims.

According The Star, the election was seen as a battle between the old Umno, represented by Zahid and the new Umno, represented by Razaleigh.

Some analysts see Zahid and Khairy as culpable for Umno’s fall, as both were part of Najib’s government whereas Razaleigh was not, The Star reported.

As for what the troubled party can do to become a solid opposition party, Ibrahim Suffian, programmes director of independent pollster Merdeka Center, believes a complete overhaul will be in order.

“Zahid needs to change the thuggish and crude image that is sometimes associated with Umno and attune it to the values of the present electorate if it is [to] be relevant,” Ibrahim told Malay Mail.

He also believed Khairy could have a key role to play.

“If the new leaders are mindful about their future, they should co-opt people like Khairy and deploy them to address the issues hobbling the party,” he told the Malay Mail.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

News, Politics

India’s cyber legislation is part of a worrying trend

International technology firms face sweeping new regulations in India that have the potential to create major shifts in the country’s cyber landscape. The new pieces of legislation were proposed as 2018 came to a close and require technology companies like Facebook and Google to store user data locally, and would also require these companies to police content and remove material the government of India deems unlawful.  Such content would include messages that threaten the “sovereignty and integrity of India.” The rules requires these companies to take action on such messages within a 24 hour period. Such regulations that require companies to monitor content isn’t unique to India. Vietnam has recently passed similar laws, with similar potential consequences. New rules also mandate that companies reveal the origin of particular messages when that information is requested. If that section of t

By Quinn Libson
January 17, 2019

News, Politics

What does Vietnam’s new cyber law mean for online dissent?

Will Facebook kowtow to the Vietnamese government to keep its market share. Facebook is in violation of a Vietnamese new cybersecurity law by allowing its users to post content critical of the communist government on its platform, the Ministry of Information and Communication announced on Wednesday of last week. The news came just days after the law went into effect on Jan. 1. The new legislation requires internet companies to comply with government demands to remove user-posted material it doesn’t like. The law also stipulates that information technology companies—Facebook and Google for instance—may be required to set up local offices and store customer data domestically, a feature which human rights advocates worry might make it easier for the government to track and charge dissidents for their online activities. This new legislation follows a pattern of increasing digital scrutiny by th

By Quinn Libson
January 15, 2019

News, Politics

Xi: Step up fight against corruption

The president calls for more measures to be taken against corruption. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, called on Friday for all-around efforts to fight corruption and improve the nation’s oversight system to secure even greater strategic outcomes in full and strict governance over the Party. Xi, China’s president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark at the third plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing. The sweeping victory that has been secured in the anti-graft campaign must be consolidated by strengthening deterrence so that officials “don’t dare to, are unable to and have no desire to” commit acts of corruption, Xi said. To this end, anti-corruption efforts in financial fields should be stepped up, particularly in key projects, areas and posi

By China Daily
January 14, 2019

News, Politics

Fugitive Jho Low says no connection between 1Mdb and China

Jho Low rubbishes Wall Street Journal report about China’s alleged role in 1MDB probe. Fugitive businessman Jho Low has dismissed a report by the Wall Street Journal linking China to Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB as “a continuation of a trial by media” led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The Journal said in a report on Monday (Jan 7) that senior Chinese leaders offered in 2016 to help bail out 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB, which is at the centre of a swelling, multi-billion-dollar graft scandal. The report cited minutes from a series of previously undisclosed meetings. Chinese officials told visiting Malaysians that China would use its influence to try to get the United States and other countries to drop their probes of allegations

By The Straits Times
January 10, 2019

News, Politics

2019 is a year for major Chinese anniversaries

President Xi Jinping delivered a major speech on Wednesday on Taiwan, one of the hottest button issues for the country. The speech took place to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of a the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” a crucial policy statement issued on Jan. 1, 1979 by the National People’s Congress that helped lead to a rapprochement between Mainland China and Taiwan. Xi’s speech sent a stern warning to those that advocate for Taiwan’s independence, including Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who is up for re-election in January 2020, and her supporters. “It is a historical and legal fact, that Taiwan is part of China and the two sides across Taiwan Straits belong to one and the same China, can never be altered

By Quinn Libson
January 8, 2019

News, Politics

Malaysian rulers to pick new king by the month’s end

Previous king stepped down in unprecedented move on Sunday. Malaysia’s Conference of Rulers will meet in about two weeks’ time to elect the country’s new constitutional monarch and his deputy after the King, Sultan Muhammad V, stepped down on Sunday in an unprecedented move. The 16th King, or Supreme Ruler, and his deputy will be sworn in at the end of the month, Keeper of the Royal Seal Syed Danial Syed Ahmad said in a press statement. Yesterday morning, six of Malaysia’s nine ruling monarchs held a meeting at the national palace, Istana Negara, following Sultan Muhammad’s decision to step down as the Malaysian King. “The rulers att

By The Straits Times
January 8, 2019