Malaysian party polls: ‘Fight for the next generation’By Asia Sentinel Oct 09, 2013 2:33PM UTC
A stuttering UMNO holds party election on Oct. 19, reports Asia Sentinel
Malaysia’s United Malays National Organization – the world’s longest-ruling political party – is to hold its triennial intraparty elections on Oct. 19 in a contest that one UMNO source calls “a fight for the next generation in the party.”
For the first time, the race, with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the thick of it as potential kingmaker, is open to 140,000 members of the party’s 3.4 million rank and file, instead of polling a few hundred top cadres. Despite a considerable lack of enthusiasm, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will be re-elected without challenge as party president, with Muhyiddin Yassin remaining as deputy president and deputy prime minister.
From there down, however, it gets more interesting, and becomes a test of whether UMNO is willing to give up the kind of corrupting influences that got the party in so much trouble with the voters in May, when for the first time since 1969 the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition, lost the popular vote to the opposition despite preserving its position in parliament, 133-89, via a thoroughgoing gerrymandering of the districts.
Najib’s post-election pledges to clean out corruption have largely been met with derision. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a party elder whom few listen to, recently wrote that the challenges facing Malaysia include “a need for a clean government of integrity to combat the rampant and pervasive corruption. During the past decade, reports say Malaysia lost US$338 billion in illicit money outflows and 50 percent of Malaysian companies report they lose business opportunities because rival companies pay bribes to decision-makers.”
“I would say it is a fight between Khairy and Mukhrizb,” a source said. Although they are not facing off against each other, that would be Kedah Chief Minister Mukhriz Mahathir, the 49-year-old son of the former Prime Minister, who is seeking to become one of the party’s three vice presidents, probably as an eventual attempt to springboard to the premiership now held by Najib, and Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is despised by the Mahathir wing of the party. Khairy is the chairman of UMNO Youth, the youth wing of the party.
Khairy, now 37, was previously a target not only of Mahathir but of Najib, partly because he was a Badawi representative but also because they accused him of using his relationship to Abdullah Badawi to gain special favors. However, he has since become close to both Najib and Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, which is believed to guarantee his return as both youth and sports minister and UMNO Youth head.
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