UMNO delegates reject efforts to disrupt government, says Ahmad Zahid after allies picked for top posts
The newly elected UMNO vice-presidents are, however, not expected to sway public perception of the party ahead of the upcoming state elections, says an analyst.
KUALA LUMPUR: Following the 2023 United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) Election results, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid said that the new party leadership and the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will continue to support and strengthen the unity government.
Ahmad Zahid, who is also the UMNO president, said that based on the 2023 UMNO Election which ended on Saturday, it was evident that every level of the national leadership and grassroots were clearly in support of the unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
“Even though we know that there are efforts to disrupt the current government, it was rejected by the UMNO delegates,” he said on Sunday (Mar 19) night after attending the unity government secretariat meeting.
According to Bernama, the meeting, which lasted for about two hours, was chaired by Mr Anwar who is also the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman and was attended by party leaders of the unity government.
Ahmad Zahid expressed confidence that apart from the support from UMNO and other BN component parties, parties from Sabah and Sarawak under the unity government will continue to support the government.
“Therefore, the combination of 20 parties in the unity government will be strengthened by the new leadership of UMNO and, God willing, the unity government will become stronger,” Bernama quoted Ahmad Zahid as saying.
The three vice-presidents’ posts for the 2023-2026 term are now held by the UMNO state liaison committee chairmen for Pahang, Johor and Federal Territories - Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, Mohamed Khaled Nordin and Johari Abdul Ghani.
According to Malaysian media, both Mr Wan Rosdy and Mr Khaled are known to be Ahmad Zahid loyalists.
Mr Wan Rosdy, who is also the Pahang chief minister, garnered the highest number of votes with 126 votes, followed by Mr Mohamed Khaled - who is also the higher education minister - with 115 votes, and lastly Mr Johari with 109 votes.
“UMNO's defeat in the 15th General Election (GE15) requires all members to regroup, strengthen our bonds and give undivided loyalty to the party so that UMNO can rise to become a strong party,” said Mr Wan Rosdy in a statement on Sunday.
“Armed with my experience in administering the government and also the party, God willing, I will use it to help rebuild the strength of UMNO so that this sacred party can rise again and remain relevant to regain the people's support, especially in the 16th General Election.”
Mr Mohamed Khaled, who has held the vice-president post since 2018, said that he will put priority on unifying the party.
“God willing, I will fulfill the mandate by giving priority to restoring unity in the party. The time for politicking is over,” he said in a statement.
“The time has come for all to reconnect as a big family that stands shoulder to shoulder in order to return UMNO to the Malay people's faith.”
Meanwhile, Mr Johari, who was a former second finance minister, promised prior to his win that he will use his knowledge of economics to contribute to the party.
“With the experience and knowledge that I have in terms of specializing in economics, I assuredly want to contribute this expertise in restoring UMNO and increasing the confidence of the people in our party, as well as driving all issues related to policy and economy,” said Mr Johari last Thursday in a statement.
NEW UMNO VICE-PRESIDENTS COULD BE HELPFUL TO ZAHID: ANALYST
Political analyst Oh Ei Sun told CNA that the new party vice-presidents could be advantageous to Ahmad Zahid’s hold over UMNO.
“All three may be considered members of the mainstream faction headed by Zahid, although Johari has somewhat of a technocratic flair and has been more expressive recently, which is nevertheless harmless or even helpful to Zahid,” he said.
Mr Johari’s vice-presidency shows that there are not just “yes men” in Zahid’s camp, said Dr Oh, who is a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
On UMNO’s chances in the upcoming state elections, Dr Oh noted that the new vice-presidents will not have much impact on the party due to their perceived poor religious credentials.
“They will have very little impact on the upcoming state elections, as the battle royale will ultimately be relentless contests of religious credentials, of which they are not abundantly endowed,” he said.
The six states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Negeri Sembilan, Penang and Selangor will hold elections this year.
UMNO party polls for the new term were originally set to be held before Dec 30 last year, which is 18 months after the previous term ended on June 30, 2021.
However, the UMNO general assembly in Mar 2022 agreed to postpone party polls up to six months after the GE15 to allow the party to focus on winning the people’s mandate.
Elections for the president and deputy president posts were not held as a motion was passed by the UMNO General Assembly on Jan 14 this year to leave the party's top two posts unchallenged.
The motion had polarised debate during the party convention. Some delegates supported it in the name of party unity, while others felt that the roles of president and deputy president should be open to challenge after UMNO’s poor showing during the November 2022 national polls.
Party president Ahmad Zahid and his deputy, Mohamad Hasan, will serve at least another term in the party.
Additional reporting by Rhea Yasmine Bte Alis Haizan.