Malaysia’s Umno forms taskforce to revive party after shock election defeat

This article first appeared in The Straits Times on May 14, 2018

Malaysia’s largest party Umno has begun efforts to reform itself after suffering a shock election defeat last Wednesday (May 9) that saw its coalition Barisan Nasional whittled down to 78 MPs from a majority of 133 in 2013.

“We have formed a taskforce to carry on party-related duties and it is also entrusted to revive Umno as a force in the Malaysian political scene,” acting Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters on Monday (May 14), after chairing a meeting of the party’s supreme council.

Former prime minister and Umno president Najib Razak quit his posts on Saturday to take responsibility for the poor performance, after Umno Youth representatives from seven states called on him to step down.

The dismal showing has also resulted in several defections from Umno and tussles to form the governments in states like Perak and Sabah, where both Pakatan Harapan and BN claim they have the majority to rule.

Datuk Seri Zahid said Umno and BN are open to negotiations with any quarters to form any sort of government or opposition faction, but that any such negotiations would have to be done en bloc.

“The supreme council members have given me the mandate that if any negotiations were to be held on Umno and BN’s behalf, they have to be done en bloc,” he said. He noted however there were no such negotiations as yet.

Mr Zahid also denied media reports that he met with jailed leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is the prime minister-in-waiting candidate for ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, on Sunday.

“At the time that the media alleged (I was meeting Anwar), I was performing a special prayer at home,” Mr Zahid said.

In a separate press conference, Umno youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin said the focus should be on stabilising and reforming the party. Pledging full support to Mr Zahid and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in leading the party, he said it is high time for the coalition to work on becoming a credible opposition.

“It is a clear message from the rakyat (people) that they are always scrutinising the government thus we must be a credible opposition. However, such goal will not happen overnight,” he said.

Mr Khairy’s views were echoed by his rivals yesterday at a forum in Kuala Lumpur.

“To keep this new government in check we need a credible opposition. If we do not have a functioning opposition there’s that risk we’ll become another Umno or BN,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, deputy director of strategy and policy at Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, a member party of PH.

Source: The Straits Times