Oct 21, 2013

    Party polls strengthen Najib's position

    INTERNAL voting for top posts in Malaysia's ruling party at the weekend has proved Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to be a canny survivor - five months after a poor showing at national elections.

    The Umno elections confirmed Datuk Seri Najib had seen off challenges from rival factions - including the son of influential former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

    Mr Mukhriz Mahathir, 48, fell just short of snaring one of three vice-president positions, all of which went to incumbents backed by Mr Najib. Mr Najib's allies also retained their dominance of the 25-member Umno Supreme Council.

    Tun Mahathir, who argues that Umno has become too insular and needs to promote new talent, said maintaining the status quo in the Umno hierarchy would hasten the party's demise after 56 years in power.

    Saturday's election of the three incumbent vice-presidents, all of them older than 50, will intensify criticism that Umno is out of touch with young and urban voters.

    But analysts said Mr Najib appeared to have held off conservatives, for now.

    "On the surface of it, Najib's leadership of the party is undisputed," said Mr Ibrahim Suffian, director of leading polling organisation Merdeka Centre.

    "His team will be able to push some reforms, but the right-wing element of the party has not been extinguished. There will have to be some compromise."