Written by Chan Kok Leong | the edge | Saturday, 28 March 2009
KUALA LUMPUR: Newly elected president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has promised to change the way the party elects its leaders.
"It will be more transparent and fair to all," he said during his acceptance speech as the new Umno president this afternoon.
"The voting of Umno's leaders will no longer be restricted to 2,500 members. We will open it up to 60,000 members."
With this development, two percent of Umno’s estimated three million members will get to elect the leaders.
He added that the divisions will be consulted before they amend the constitution.
“In future, we hope to conduct elections simultaneously in all the 191 divisions. This will ensure that the practice of money politics will be curbed.
“After this, Umno will be the first political party to have its leaders elected by so many members,” said the soon-to-be prime minister.
Earlier, prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had told the assembly that he will be meeting the King on April 2 to notify him of his intention to relinquish his prime ministership.
By convention, the Umno president, who is also the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition president, is appointed as the prime minister. The BN has won all 12 general elections in the country since its independence in 1957.
Apart from that, the quota for election candidates will also be revamped.
“I don’t want to be a president who hides behind a quota. The current number of nominations (58) needed before one can contest for the position is too high.
He added that the quota is still necessary to ensure that “there are no jokers in the race”.
The new president said that they hoped to amend the party constitution at the 2009 general assembly later this year. Last year’s general assembly was postponed to this month to ensure a simultaneous handover of Umno presidency and the prime ministership.
However, he was silent about limiting the term of office bearers, a suggestion put forth by Abdullah during his opening address on Thursday.
But he explained that the party needs to adopt these measures to give confidence to the people of Umno.
“More importantly for us, is that we get back to work immediately. Umno needs to get back to the ground. The party needs to understand the people before it advises the government on the types of policies it wants to implement,” he added.
The seventh president of Umno also thanked his predecessor for a smooth transition.
“This smooth handover has ensured that the Umno tradition of No 2 replacing No 1 is continued.
“Abdullah has in private told me three things. First, Pak Lah told me that it is his wish to see me succeed.
“Second, he has promised not to criticise me in public and third, he told me that he is willing to advise me anytime,” said the finance minister.
Najib also expressed that it is his hope to discuss party matters and the country with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah in future.
“It will be a little awkward at first, but I’m sure we will all warm up later. For at stake is not us as individuals, but the party and the country,” he said to loud applause.
Earlier in his speech, Najib promised the delegates that Islam will remain an important struggle for the party.
“The agenda to uphold Islam will be boosted in all aspects including spiritual aspects, economy, social and cultural. There will be more curriculum for religious subjects too.”