Najib entrenches power in Umno, as Dr Mahathir laments an “insular” party

  • Karpal Singh, always in the pursuit of justice
    Karpal Singh, always in the pursuit of justice

    Karpal Singh – the prominent lawyer, lawmaker and DAP leader – died early this morning in a road accident while on the way to Penang, doing what he does best: going to court for a client. He was 73.His reputation as a lawyer and politician had earned him the nickname the "Tiger of Jelutong" from the time he started legal practice in 1970 –... …

  • Farewell, Tiger of Jelutong
    Farewell, Tiger of Jelutong

    GEORGE TOWN, April 17 – Today, the nation woke up to the shocking news of the death of Karpal Singh. This man who has been part of Malaysia’s political landscape for so long and who has overcome... …

  • Mini-sub completes first full mission in hunt for MH370
    Mini-sub completes first full mission in hunt for MH370

    A mini-submarine hunting for wreckage of missing Malaysian airliner MH370 has completed its first full mission at the third attempt, officials said today, as seabed data it retrieved was being analysed. The first two attempts to scan the deep Indian Ocean off western Australia failed to produce any results. The first dive began Monday night... …

  • Tears flow as Karpal’s body arrives at Ipoh hospital
    Tears flow as Karpal’s body arrives at Ipoh hospital

    Tears flowed as Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh's body arrived at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh, Perak, at 7.25am today for a post-mortem following an accident near Gua Tempurung in Perak, early this morning. His wife Gurmit Kaur, sons Jagdeep Singh Deo and Gobind Singh Deo, and daughter Sangeet were joined by DAP secretary-general... …

  • Karpal killed in accident, son injured
    Karpal killed in accident, son injured

    Veteran opposition MP and lawyer Karpal Singh was killed in an accident near Gopeng in Perak this morning. …

  • Families of MH370 passengers reveal unanswered questions’ list on social media, says CNN
    Families of MH370 passengers reveal unanswered questions’ list on social media, says CNN

    Families of passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 yesterday released a list of questions that they said authorities have so far left unanswered, as the search enters into day 41 without any sign of wreckage from the aircraft. CNN reported that the 26 questions focus on technical issues involving emergency locator... …

Internal voting for top posts in Umno at the weekend has proved Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to be a canny survivor - five months after a poor showing at national elections - but at a cost to his reform agenda.

In May, Najib seemed dead in the water to some observers after presiding over the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition's worst election result.

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

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

Since coming to power in 2009, Najib had eased draconian security laws, and pledged to phase out privileges for majority ethnic Malays that have hurt Malaysia's competitiveness.

Malaysia's large ethnic Chinese minority and most urban voters largely rejected the UMNO-dominated BN coalition at the election and Najib has since reversed both policies under pressure from traditionalists.

Despite that, he has not appeased all of his conservative rivals, signalling he will remain under pressure to rein in any reformist instincts.

Last Friday, Mahathir, 88, launched an outspoken attack on what he called Najib's "bad performance".

Among other barbs, Mahathir said maintaining the status quo in the UMNO hierarchy would hasten the party's demise after 56 years in power. He also blamed Najib for adding to Malaysia's debt burden with pre-election handouts, and criticised his economic development programmes for lacking credibility.

"The party finds it unable to reject him simply because there are really no other candidates ... the result is they continue to support him despite his poor performance," Mahathir told Reuters in an exclusive interview.

Najib will present his government's budget for 2014 this Friday, under pressure from ratings agencies and investors to rein in Malaysia's high fiscal deficit and debt.

Tilting back to reform?

Mahathir, who argues that UMNO has become too insular and needs to promote new talent, also accused Najib's government of pandering to the opposition with liberal social reforms before the election and not making good on his latest pledges.

"Most people don't think he is doing enough. A lot of people comment when he announces things, it is nothing new," said Mahathir, whose often authoritarian rule spanned 1981 to 2003.

May's election was the second straight poll in which the BN saw its parliamentary majority shrink and the first in which it lost the popular vote to the Opposition, led by former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The result exacerbated racial tensions as UMNO-backed media blamed "ungrateful" Chinese voters for the setback.

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. Najib had tried to broaden the BN's appeal to different races, handing out cash payments to low-income Malaysians among other policies.

In September he reversed course by announcing a raft of new measures to benefit ethnic Malays, bolstering a decades-old affirmative action policy, in a move seen as crucial to ward off any challenge for his UMNO presidency.

Last month, his government pushed through a bill that brings back detention without trial, over strong criticism by civil society groups.

Najib likely isn't "in the pocket" of conservatives and could now tilt back to a more liberal, reformist agenda having balanced the different wings of the party, said Shaun Levine, a senior Washington-based analyst with Eurasia Group.

"He has to appease the conservative base but he must also ensure that foreign investors in particular are certain that Malaysia is not going over the edge economically," Levine said.

The UMNO internal elections were the first under a new system introduced by Najib - who has popular grassroots support - that broadened the voting base in a bid to make the process more democratic and less beholden to powerful party "warlords". - Reuters, October 23, 2013.

Follow @YahooMalaysia on LINE for daily news updates.

Comments on Yahoo pages are subject to our link to Comments Guidelines. You are responsible for any content that you post. Yahoo is not responsible or liable in any way for comments posted by its users. Yahoo does not in any way endorse or support comments made by its users.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says The Malay Mail Online
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge... …

  • Wreck hunter confident MH370 crash site found, says Aussie paper The Malaysian Insider
    Wreck hunter confident MH370 crash site found, says Aussie paper

    A wreck hunter is confident that the search teams had pinpointed the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and believes that the black boxes will be located soon, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reports. David Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries told the ABC's 7.30 programme yesterday, he was confident that, because of their... …

  • One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks AFP News
    One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks

    South Korea's coastguard said Wednesday one person had been killed as it struggled to rescue 476 people -- mostly high school students -- aboard a ferry that ran aground and sank off the southern coast. "The ferry is almost completely submerged," Lee said, adding that a detachment of South Korean Navy SEALS were taking part in the rescue. Of the 450 passengers on board the ferry bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, 325 were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul. The …