KUALA LUMPUR: The youth and women's wings of Malaysia's ruling party UMNO have called for Prime Minister Najib Razak and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's posts to go uncontested in the next party polls.
The call was a show of unity, going into a general election that must be held by August 2018.
The president and deputy president of UMNO are typically appointed the prime minister and deputy prime minister in a Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
At the UMNO Youth annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday (Dec 6), chief Khairy Jamaluddin said the party should focus on the general elections rather than lobbying for posts in party polls that will only be held after the federal elections.
"Let us go into the battlefield with a calm heart and a clear mind. Do not be weighed down with questions of who to support later," he told delegates at the Putra World Trade Centre.
He stressed that "the big question" should be settled today and that the positions of both president and deputy president should not be contested.
"With that, on this very UMNO Youth platform, we want to propose – when we do win the general elections, God willing, that the positions of both the president and deputy president be uncontested, and we give our fullest support to Najib Razak and Zahid Hamidi to continue to helm this party," Khairy said to a cheering crowd.
He said that uncertainties and insecurities should be thrown out and focus should be on delivering a big victory for BN.
This call was echoed by the female youth wing as well as the women's wing, whose AGMs are happening concurrently.
UMNO were rocked by the exits of top party figures last year including Malaysia's longest serving prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Najib's former deputy turned critic Muhyiddin Yassin.
While observers say party unity is more solid this year, Najib has been concerned about delegates lobbying for party positions rather than focusing on the upcoming polls.
Aside from a call to arms, the three wings also used their keynote addresses to take down the opposition and "misplaced nostalgia" about Mahathir and his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, a Malay-based party that will be going after the same voter base.
Khairy called for Malay unity in his speech, urging Malays to back UMNO at the election.
"The moment the Malays lose their influence because of infighting and squabbles, we lose the hope and future of our people," he said.
"The moment the Malays are divided in their ballots, it will never come together again. If we let go of what we have, we will never hold it again.
"Use all that you have and all your might to bring the Malay people back to choosing UMNO as the main party, which will then shelter the Malays and Malaysians for all eternity."
Analysts have said that the former Malaysian prime minister is the strongest contender to Najib, but Khairy painted a less than rosy picture of Mahathir's tenure as premier.
"There are those who’ve asked why we’re reopening stories from the past... the past has to be studied and understood so that simplistic conclusions aren’t made by young voters. So young voters don’t make illogical deductions that – apparently the old days were better." #PAU2017 pic.twitter.com/XIHbDQ6wDH— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) December 6, 2017
"Just look at social media. When we destroy their arguments, expose their slanders, there are youths who defend Pakatan by saying: 'Now Pakatan has Mahathir. When he was in power, things were great'," said Khairy.
He added: "As though in his time development was all-encompassing, with the building of KLCC, Sepang International Circuit and KLIA. As though the people’s welfare was put first, the economy was fair, there was no GST, and cronyism wasn’t rampant.
"As though in his time the government was just, the people had power, there was no dictatorship and everything was transparent. As though everything good today was built by him, and everything bad is our fault. "