Posted: 10 Jun 2013 06:52 PM PDT
The conclusion of the general election has shifted the spotlight to Umno, the largest political party in the country
Following the conclusion of the 13th general election recently, attention has been focused on the coming political party elections including that of Umno, the biggest Malay-based party in the country.
The Umno election which will be using a new system following amendments to the party constitution in October 2009, will determine Umno's direction henceforth in facing the next general election.
Under the amended party constitution, the nomination quota for the top posts – from Surpreme Council member post right up to president – were abolished, hence providing the biggest opportunity for any party member to contest with the minimum condition of having been a member of the Supreme Council or divisional committee for at least one term.
However, the question is whether the coming election of a political party with some 3.2 million members can provide leaders capable of meeting the needs and aspirations of its grassroot members and the people at large.
Some political analysts and party leaders feel that for Umno to remain relevant, fresh and mature in tandem with the political transformation agenda, the party election this time should make room for new faces to contest, hence creating echelon leaders capable of facing future challenges.
Acording to Assoc Prof Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), the Umno election this time is crucial, considering that Umno is the pillar of Barisan Nasional (BN) and heading the national leadership.
He said that unlike the elections of the other BN component parties, the Umno election inveterably determined that the individuals winning the party president and deputy president posts would be appointed as prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively.
For the first time in the party's history, Umno will see 146,500 delegates from 191 divisions directly electing its top leadership. Before this, only 2,500 delegates had been making the choice at the party's general assembly.
"The abolition of the quota and increase in the number of delegates who will be voting is a transformation process in an effort to improve the quality of the Umno leadership.
"This huge democratic space provided by Umno should be taken advantage of by the party members to choose leaders who are really qualified and acceptable to the people to helm the party, hence strengthening Umno," added Samsul Adabi,from the university's Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, when contacted.
However, there are those who feel that to get leaders capable of meeting the aspirations of the grassroots and acceptable to the general public, all the top party posts including the president, should be contested.
Supporting this view, Samsul Adabi said to people outside the party, having contests for important party posts would show real democracy in Umno.
"What the people actually want to see are contests for these posts. After the party election had been put on hold for a few years, there are however those clamouring for the president and deputy president posts to be uncontested. This does not reflect what is desired as contained in the party's new constitution.
"Having contests for the main party posts will also determine that the leadership chosen is acceptable to the party grassroots and the 'rakyat' (people)," he said.
Will the Umno election this time also able to attract more people from outside the party, especially the young generation, to support Umno?
Samsul Adabi opined that if there were contests for all the top posts, the party would be able to win back the support of the middle-class voters who were said to have rejected Umno, besides giving the message that the party was really serious about transformation.
However, there have been calls of late coming from some party leaders for the party president post, currently held by Najib Tun Razak, and the deputy president post, held by Muhyiddin Yassin, not to be contested this time.
This is because the two leaders had managed to increase the number of parliamentary seats won by Umno from 79 in the 2008 general election to 88 in the recent 13th general election.
The question of whether the two top posts should be contested has received mixed reaction from Umno leaders as there are also those who want the quota system be re-introduced.
Samsul Adabi said the coming Umno election should indeed be the best platform towards empowering and strengthening Umno before facing the next general election.
Umno Youth deputy chief, Razali Ibrahim said a party election showed healthy democratic practice in Umno and the maturity of its members in choosing leaders to steer the party.
"What is important is for Umno to reflect maturity and real democracy. I hope the election this time will go on well no matter what, as we want to show transparency, integrity and democracy," he said.
Puteri Umno head, Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said the abolition of the quota system which was unanimously supported by the party members, gave the message to the general public that Umno was serious about change, besides giving the members total freedom to choose the party's top leaders.
"The outcome of the Umno election will reflect that the party's leadership is the grassroots' choice," she said.
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