KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s incoming prime minister Najib Razak has vowed to fight vote-buying in his party in a bid to regain ground after it lost its iron-clad two-thirds majority last year, an official newspaper said on Sunday.
Najib, who will become premier after elections in his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) this week, told the party-controlled New Straits Times that the selection process of party leaders had to change to prevent vote buying.
“..UMNO is seen as a party that practices money politics. How can we tackle this? We have to undertake reforms, including structural reforms that also involve the selection process,” Najib said in an interview.
Najib is set to be anointed as party president on Thursday, a post which guarantees premiership over the Southeast Asian country.
He will lead a government faced with mounting squabbles within the UMNO-led ruling coalition, a resurgent opposition and the country’s first recession since the Asian financial crisis a decade ago.
Just a week before the party polls, Ali Rustam, the chief minister of southern Melaka state, was barred from standing for the post of deputy leader of UMNO and hence deputy prime minister on grounds that he had been buying votes.
But this has sparked concern that supporters of Ali may vote against a person seen as Najib’s pick as his deputy, International Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
“When we want to take action against any leader (for vote buying), the ones who will go against the it (the decision) would be their supporters,” Najib said in an apparent reference to the recent anti-graft crackdown on Ali.
“They (delegates) must vote according to their conscience. We have to elect leaders who have the credentials to undertake the reforms,” he said.
Some 2,500 delegates are expected to attend the UMNO assembly, the party which has dominated Malaysia’s government for the past 51 years since the country gained independence from Britain.
Immediately after the party elections, Najib has to lead a coalition of Indian and Chinese parties, into a battle for a parliamentary by-election and two state by-elections while facing electorates who see UMNO as corrupt.
(Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Source : Reuters News