KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Monday (Jun 25) that prime minister Mahathir Mohamad had asked him and the rest of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to join his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
But Zahid said he insisted that Barisan Nasional (BN), which UMNO leads, would only negotiate en bloc as the coalition works on consensus. The parties had signed a statutory declaration to that effect shortly after the coalition suffered a crushing defeat in the May 9 election, he added.
BN currently consists of three parties – UMNO, the Malaysian Indian Congress and the Malaysian Chinese Association. It still controls 57 seats in the 222-seat parliament.
Zahid, who is UMNO's acting president, was speaking to candidates and divisional leaders at an Eid open house at the Putra World Trade Center on Monday.
He faces a five-cornered fight for the top job in UMNO in the party elections on Jun 30, with his opponents including party veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
Prior to the closing of nominations on Jun 18, Zahid had tasked Khairy to come up with a plan to revamp the party and restore public confidence.
But speaking to the federal territory division members on Monday evening, he accused Khairy of stealing his ideas.
“Well, let him be, let him use whatever he wants to,” Zahid said.
He pledged to continue UMNO’s "core struggle", which is to defend Islam, special rights for Malays, the sovereignty of Malay rulers and the Malay language.
“Only UMNO can defend the Malay interests; we need to rise up to seize power in the fastest way possible,” Zahid said.
About 165,000 UMNO members will be choosing the central leadership this Saturday. They include the party presidency and deputy presidency, as well as three vice president posts and 25 seats in the supreme council.
It is the first time since 1987 that all positions, including the top two posts, are open for contests as the party seeks to regain its political relevance and chart a new future as an opposition.