KUALA LUMPUR, 28 March 2009: The Umno constitution will be amended to allow simultaneous elections for top party posts in all 191 divisions nationwide, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
This will be among changes in the party to ensure that the election process is carried out in an open and transparent manner, he said.
Najib, who is the deputy prime minister, said Umno would convene a special session at the 2009 Umno general assembly at the end of this year to amend the constitution.
“At the moment, the party’s leadership is only determined by about 2,600 delegates, representing about three million Umno members.
“Many felt that the number of delegates is not representative of the wishes and aspirations of the three million members,” he said in his acceptance speech as the new Umno president at the Umno General Assembly at Putra World Trade Centre here.
With the amendment, he said, Umno members nationwide would get the opportunity to vote for their leaders.
“Let us be the leaders who are truly chosen by the grassroots. With the delegates’ agreement, we will amend the constitution,” he said.
Najib said that Umno members should realise that having a clean image would ensure the survival of the party.
“So long as the (election) process is polluted, the people will continue to have doubts in Umno. The (amendment) is not only to ensure that Umno remains credible but also to protect the integrity of the elected leaders,” he said.
He also said that apart from changes in the election process, Umno would also review the nomination quota which determines members’ eligibility to contest for posts in party elections.
“At the moment, if you want to contest for the Umno presidency you need 58 nominations, which is quite impossible to achieve.
”To be the vice-president, you need 20 nominations… and if you obtain only 19 nominations, you’ll end up going back and forth to look for that one remaining nomination.
“If you don’t have enough nominations, you cannot contest. This can give rise to all sorts of allegations, whether real or perceived.
“But we still need to set minimum criteria for the eligibility to contest so that there would be no ‘jokers’ entering the fray,” he said.
Towards this end, Najib said, a committee on the constitutional amendment would be set up to study suitable election mechanisms and review the quota system.
“We will discuss this at the divisional level nationwide, and then the supreme council will sum up the details and make recommendations at the Umno general assembly this year so that Umno will become a respected party,” he said.
Meanwhile, responding to calls by members, who emphasised the concept of “party controlling the government” during the debate, the Umno president said the concept would be more complete if the “people” component was added to it.
“This makes for a complete concept — people, party and government – because it will be of little use if we have posts in a party that has lost its power.
“The party, on the other hand, should be in tune with the people’s aspirations. Only then can we translate the aspirations into policies and plans,” he said.
Najib also stressed that Umno would strengthen its Islamic agenda in all aspects.
“There will be no end to the efforts to promulgate Islam,” he said.
Meanwhile, the proposed amendment was given the thumbs up by Umno leaders.
Deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the new election process would make Umno more democratic.
Describing that the proposal was a wise move to tackle the many problems in the party, he said, the proposal received endorsement from the delegates today.
“This will restore the party’s image and spur the party forward,” Muhyiddin told reporters.
“The party may also do away with the nomination quota. Only the registration of candidates is required,” he said.
He added that if the proposal was accepted, the Umno general assembly would only be dealing with the tabling of resolutions and the debate because party elections would have already been carried at the divisional level.
Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam also welcomed the move, saying, “It’s a positive step.”
He said that if quota was still needed, it could be set to a minimum of 10 nominations for the presidency, five for the deputy presidency and two each for the vice-presidencies and supreme council seats,” he said.
Former Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said the move would allow members to elect leaders of their preference.
“At the moment, the delegates are voting on behalf of the grassroots. There could be cases when divisions nominated a candidate unanimously but when it came to voting, the delegates voted for someone else,” she said in a statement.
Supreme council member Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Umno should return to the grassroots.
“Umno comes from the people and it should return to the people and not adopt an elitist attitude,” he said. — Bernama