KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was on Saturday (Jun 30) elected president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
He succeeds former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who stepped down as UMNO president after the stunning defeat of his Barisan Nasional coalition in the country's general election in May.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who was UMNO vice-president, had been discharging the duties of party president after Mr Najib stepped down.
Five candidates ran in the presidential race, including former Malaysian minister for youth and sports Khairy Jamaluddin and 81-year-old veteran politician Razaleigh Hamzah who is commonly known as Ku Li.
As of 10pm, Dr Ahmad Zahid secured 98 votes out of 191 divisions which voted, according to Zahid's aide.
Mr Khairy got 54 votes and Ku Li is at a distant third with 26 votes.
The two other contenders for the top post were Bandar Tun Razak Division member Mohamed Iqbal Maricair and Iskandar Puteri Division member Mohd Yusof Musa @ Jamaluddin.
Elections were also held for the three vice-president posts, supreme council member posts and divisional leaders.
Political observers said the election of Dr Ahmad Zahid showed that there is still some resistance to change.
“It appears as if there is still resistance for change within UMNO when candidates like Khairy Jamaluddin and Ku Li who tried to change UMNO from business as usual were not getting support from majority of the members," said former lawmaker Yusmadi Yusoff.
The political heavyweight also faces a tough challenge going forward.
"Zahid's biggest challenge is not to strengthen the party, but to rebuild the Barisan Nasional coalition," noted Adib Zalkapli, political risk and government relations consultant at Vriens and Partners.
"UMNO can't go into the next general election alone or with just MCA and MIC. UMNO needs credible partners especially in Sabah and Sarawak," he added.
Additional reporting by Melissa Goh