- POSTED: 24 Sep 2013 15:50
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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak may have retained his presidency of the ruling UMNO party unopposed over the weekend but his headaches are far from over.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak may have retained his presidency of the ruling UMNO party unopposed over the weekend but his headaches are far from over.
Analysts say Najib needs a strong team behind him.
He is walking a tight rope between party conservatives who want UMNO to adopt a more hardline approach, and party liberals who insist UMNO should be more inclusive.
Despite having led the ruling coalition into a poorer showing in the 13th general election, Najib insists UMNO did better, adding seven more seats compared to the 2008 elections.
And many analysts were not surprised when both Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin retained their positions as UMNO president and deputy president unchallenged especially after a slew of pro-Malay programmes were unveiled recently.
Political analyst Keith Leong from public affairs consulting firm KRA group, said: "PM Najib has done a lot to placate the conservatives in the party, so he's really bought himself time in that sense."
Still, all eyes are on the team that gets elected in the coming party polls, with over 146,000 delegates voting for the first time in UMNO's history.
Women's chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil is expected to sail through re-election, despite facing off two contenders.
Six are vying for the three Vice President posts.
Apart from the three incumbents, old timers Mohd Ali Rustam and Mohd Isa Samad are trying to make a come-back.
Also entering the fray is Mukhriz Mahathir, the youngest son of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
"Of the six, all of them are from the same ideological orientation. They all seem to be conservatives. There doesn't seem to be any odd ball in the pack. There doesn't seem to be any mavericks," Leong pointed out.
Some see October's UMNO elections as paving the way for the return of the Mahathir era, not just with the entry of Mkukhriz, but also the son of Mahathir's loyalist Akhramsyah Sanusi, who's challenging the UMNO youth chief post.
Both however have denied they are Dr Mahathir's proxies.
Akhramsyah said: "I am not a proxy other than the people who want me to contest. I'm contesting because there are enough permuda who want me to contest so I'm the proxy of the people who want the change in the leadership."
Forty-nine-year-old Mukhriz, who is also the chief minister of Kedah, is the youngest candidate.
When asked if he can work with Najib's team, Mukhriz replied: "Of course. I am 110 per cent… all for him and Tan Sri Muhyiddin."
Although the elections have yet been held, some economists say the upcoming polls and the party's constant politicking has hindered the country's economic progress.
Yeah Kim Leng, head of research at RAM holdings, said: "So far, the attention has been focused on party election to the detriment of the economy. The economic management has been left on some kind of auto pilot. What is needed here is a faster pace of economic transformation which is what the investors are looking for in order to look at Malaysia's medium to long term prospects."
Analysts say Mr Najib will need a strong and united team in place before the budget is tabled on October 25 in order to push through the tough economic and social reforms such as the implementation of the goods and services tax, and the rolling back of subsidies to fix public finances.