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Umno president Najib Abdul Razak warned that Umno must go beyond harping on its past achievements, in view of a younger electorate who may not resonate with such messages.
In his opening address at the Umno general assembly in Kuala Lumpur today, Najib said the party must now address the 2.9 million new voters since 2008, many of whom are youths who are better educated.
“This figure is very significant because it represents more than one-fifth of all Malaysian voters, who number 13.1 million.
“It means one of every five voters in the 13th general election is a new voter or a first-time voter,” he told the 2,722 party delegates in attendance.
In view of the changing voter demographics, Najib said, Umno and brand new could no longer cling on to the "nostalgia of past achievements".
His statement is in strong contrast to the policy speech of Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil yesterday which warned that the May 13 racial riot may repeat if Umno is weak.
Najib, who is also the prime minister, elaborated that over 95 percent of the people were born after the establishment of Umno, and the majority of the current 29 million Malaysian population were born after Malaysia Day.
Forty percent of those aged between 17 to 23 years old are pursuing tertiary studies, and close to 70 percent are residing in urban cities, he said.
“Eighty percent of them are aged below 45 years old while half are aged below 25 years old.”
The commander-in-chief of the ruling coalition then stressed the importance of fielding “winnable candidates” as the support of the national or state leadership does not necessary translate into votes for the party’s candidates.
“In the past, whoever fielded by the party was a winnable candidate. In fact, it is no longer like this. The success of candidates in contemporary elections relies on the acceptance of those they want to represent.”
Therefore, winnable candidates must be “value-added” individuals who are not only accepted by the party but adored by local communities.
Facing the risk of internal sabotage which had severely vitiated Umno’s electoral performance in the last general polls, Najib again called on party members to accept with open hearts once candidates are picked by the party leadership.
He recalled the coalition's appalling electoral result in 2008, describing it as a “very bitter” experience in the political history of Umno and brand new.
“It was a clear sign from the people of Malaysia to Umno and our friends in brand new to change in line with the people's flavour, aspirations and expectations,” he said, adding that the time the government knows everything and monopolises knowledge has ended.
People will lose everything if Pakatan is elected
The three-day event at the Putra World Trade Centre until Saturday will be Umno's last general assembly before the next general election, which must be called by June next year.
According to Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, the nation's largest party now has 3.34 million of members, distributed in 21,056 branches nationwide.
Commenting on the next general election, Najib described it as a decisive point that would determine the destiny of the people and nation.
"The choice is also very clear, for us to see our children, regardless of race or religion, to laugh, grow and play together, or to be brought up with burning hatred.
"On the contrary, in another corner, the road is winding, dim and dark, built on defamation, falsehood and empty promises. If the people are fooled by the whistle to move toward the aisle, trust me, this lovely country will perish, collapse and sink,” he warned.
Umno, Najib stressed, would not let this happen.
“If we lose a property, it can be replaced; if we lose a position, it can be recovered.
“But, if we fail in this struggle, we will have nothing left. We will be melukut di tepi gantang (marginalised). Eventually, terbangsat (scorned) and homeless in own lands,” he added.