KUALA LUMPUR, 27 Dec 2008: The year has placed a heavy burden on Umno, as the pillar of the Barisan Nasional (BN), to regain the people’s trust as a party that is fair and capable of looking after the people’s welfare in line with its slogan “Dulu, kini dan selamanya”.
Having been humbled to become the opposition in Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan, and getting routed in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, has served as a useful experience for the largest Malay party with its three million members.
Money politics is also still plaguing the 62-year-old party despite attempts by the party leadership to eradicate it.
The results of the 12th general election on 8 March gave rise to restlessness among Umno members. There were calls from within the party that speedy changes be made.
The party’s and BN’s secretary-general, Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, resigned 11 days after the general election saying it was difficult to work after not being named minister in the new cabinet of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah himself was asked to step down, especially by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his son Mukhriz, who is an Umno Youth exco member.
Umno, which postponed its party elections to focus on the 12th general election, announced on 27 March that the party elections would be held during the general assembly in December this year.
Abdullah had at that time announced he would defend his Umno president’s post.
Party veteran and also Gua Musang Member of Parliament, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, then offered himself as a candidate for president.
Mukhriz and former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Khir Toyo made clear their stand to go for the Umno Youth chief’s post. They were later joined by the movement’s deputy chief, Khairy Jamaluddin.
At the same time, various calls were made for the quota system to contest party positions to be abolished.
Among those who made the call was Dr Mahathir himself even though it was he who introduced the system after he was almost defeated by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the 1987 party election.
On 19 May in Alor Star, Dr Mahathir pulled a surprise by announcing he was quitting Umno and would only return after Abdullah was no longer party president.
Umno, however, received a shot in the arm when the former right-hand person of
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Ezam Mohd Noor, joined Umno.
Former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Isa Samad, was freed from his three-year suspension and decided to contest for a vice-president post.
In July, Abdullah announced a power transition plan to hand over the reins as party president and BN chairperson to Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the middle of next year.
Two months later, the Umno supreme council made a decision to have the party general assembly in March next year to smoothen the earlier transition of power.
Abdullah then announced on 8 Oct that he would not defend his presidency and a day later, Najib announced his candidacy for the post.
After almost all Umno divisions had held their meetings in October, Najib won the presidency uncontested by getting almost all nominations except for Gua Musang which nominated Tengku Razaleigh.
Muhyiddin, who before this announced his candidacy for a vice-president’s post, then withdrew and offered himself for the deputy presidents’s post. This was followed by another vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, and chairperson of the Selangor Umno liaison committee Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.
At once the focus for the March 2009 party elections shifted to the contest for deputy president.
The post of vice-presidents will see an eight-cornered contest among Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein; Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal; Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin; Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar; Isa; former Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis; Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.
The fight in Wanita
As speculation on the party elections began to subside, Wanita Umno started getting attention.
The plan that was agreed upon for deputy chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to take over from chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz in July 2009 did not proceed as Shahrizat decided to challenge Rafidah after she got enough nominations to contest the top post.
The development caused Wanita exco Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim to win the deputy post uncontested.
On 2 Dec, Umno sacked Datuk Zaid Ibrahim following the former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department’s attendance at several Opposition functions. — Bernama