Muhyiddin is most senior leader to do so, saying delay could cause rift in party
By Chow Kum Hor, THE STRAITS TIMESUMNO vice-president Muhyiddin Yassin has become the most senior party leader yet to ask the Prime Minister to hand over his post to a successor, following the party's massive electoral losses last month.
The Johor Umno strongman said he is prepared to run for a higher post during the party polls in December.
The International Trade and Industry Minister said a transfer of power would help Umno to quickly regain lost ground.
On Saturday, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said that the succession should take place immediately. A delay could cause a deep rift in Umno.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin has now echoed Tun Dr Mahathir's views. 'Now is the time,' he said, adding that he knew saying so was 'risky' as he could invite a backlash.
'There is a lot of unhappiness on the ground. I feel that if Umno does not change, a lot of bad things will happen. If I do not speak the truth, the Malays and Umno will be destroyed,' he said in an interview with Utusan Malaysia, a popular Malay-language broadsheet that often reflects the views of the Umno grassroots.
His comments appeared three days after he revealed that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was working out a succession plan with his deputy Najib Razak.
Datuk Seri Abdullah has come under immense pressure to quit after the party's top leadership met local Umno chieftains in three states.
The grassroots leaders wanted him to take the blame for the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional's (BN) dismal performance at last month's general election.
'If the changes are not made immediately, Umno will also lose power and can never make a comeback,' Tan Sri Muhyiddin said.
And for the first time, the three-term party vice-president said that he was prepared to seek a higher post.
'If there are members who think that Muhyiddin can play a role in the party in whatever role, I am prepared to accept (nominations),' the former Johor menteri besar said.
He said the March 8 election results show that the Malays could no longer dominate Malaysian politics through Umno.
'In the past, the Chinese said that they are the minority and cannot do much even if they cooperate with the Indians. But now, things have changed.
'The non-Malays can now chart the future of Malaysian politics. This has never happened before,' he said.
He conceded that many had blamed Datuk Seri Abdullah and his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin for BN losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament. The opposition also wrested five states.
BN also needed to review its policies, which were too Umno and Malay-centric, resulting in non-Malay voters abandoning other component parties, he said.
Meanwhile, Johor Umno information chief Mohd Puad Zarkashi wanted the transition of power to be expedited.
Gelang Patah Umno division chief Abdul Aziz Sapian said the transition would enable the party and the government to regain Malay support.
He also said Johor Umno would only support the Prime Minister if the transfer of power was carried out.