KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak faced down a threat to his leadership after nominations closed Saturday without anybody contesting his presidency of the ruling party, officials said.
His government suffered its worst performance ever in May elections, prompting speculation that former leader Mahathir Mohamad, who continues to be highly influential in Najib’s party, would back a challenger for the presidency of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Ahmad Maslan, UMNO information chief, said on Twitter: “Congratulations to UMNO president Najib and deputy president Muhyiddin (Yassin) who won without contest at 5pm this evening.” The UMNO dominates the ruling coalition which has governed since the Malay Muslim-majority country gained independence.
Najib came to power in 2009 after his predecessor, under heavy pressure from Mahathir, was forced to step down following UMNO’s unprecedented loss of five state governments and its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority the previous year.
Although Najib reclaimed two states this year, the government’s majority in parliament was slashed further and for the first time in history the opposition gained the popular majority of the multi-ethnic electorate.
Najib announced last week fresh measures to benefit the country’s Muslim Malay and indigenous groups, collectively known as “bumiputra” or “sons of the soil”, who make up 68 percent of the country’s 28 million people.
“If we do not bring up the economic participation of the bumiputras, the country will not be able to achieve developed nation status by 2020,” Najib said.