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By-elections test for new Umno leadership

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 March 2009: The new Umno leadership will test its acceptability with multiracial voters in the three 7 April by-elections in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.

Newly-elected Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin described the by-elections as “a big test” that would not be easy for Barisan Nasional (BN) to win because of complex issues that were unique to each seat.

“It will be a test of the new party leadership on the ground in these three places. It will be a chance to explain critical issues and to tell the electorate that this new team is committed to change, is open to the views of all Malaysians, is prepared to engage, talk and listen,” Muhyiddin said at a press conference today on the sidelines of the Umno general assembly.

He was elected as the party’s new deputy president last night with 1,575 votes to Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib’s 916 votes.

Muhyiddin said voters will be asked to give the new Umno leadership a chance to make changes to the party and country.

As the party deputy president, he will take up the traditional role that goes with the post of leading the BN’s election machinery in all three seats.

The three newly-elected vice-presidents will be assigned a seat each.

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will lead the BN election machinery in Bukit Gantang. Ahmad Zahid is also the Perak Umno deputy chief.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein will lead in Bukit Selambau, and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal will lead in Batang Ai.

Muhyiddin said the new team will impress on voters that the new Umno leadership “means business”.

“We want to address all the pertinent issues post-2008 general elections to meet the demands of a multiracial society. I hope to see renewed vigour in addressing these issues to put Umno back in a strong position.”

He said there was much “political and psychological ground” that Umno had to reclaim.

The good deputy

Known for being outspoken, Muhyiddin, 61, was asked if would continue this trait now that he was deputy to Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is five years younger.

“People know my look is a sincere look. I mean business. I say something, I mean it. If I need to speak up, I will. I have direct access to him (Najib) and I can see him and talk to him, I don’t have to shout something out across.

“You have to understand my position. I have to act properly and observe decorum,” he said.

He added that it was more important to deliver on the change one talks about rather than just being vocal.

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