Najib says KT loss not a reflection on his leadership

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

Deputy Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak dismissed suggestions that Barisan Nasional's (BN) defeat in the Kuala Terengganu by-election was a personal setback, insisting instead that it was the collective responsibility of his party.

Najib, who led the BN campaign in Kuala Terengganu, has come under pressure after the loss to Pakatan Rakyat in what was an Umno stronghold.

While the BN candidate was seen as a man closely associated with Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, the defeat has put the spotlight on Najib, who will take over as Umno president in March.

Since last Saturday's defeat, some of Najib's supporters have been trying to shift the blame for the loss to Abdullah.

"How do you know it is personal?" Najib said today when asked whether he thought the loss was a reflection on his leadership.

"It is a total responsibility of the party when it comes to a by-election. There are many factors, it is not a one-man show."

Instead, the current deputy president insisted that Umno must change its culture and image to restore support for the party which suffered its second straight electoral loss since BN lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority last March.

Najib said that Umno must conduct a post-mortem of the Kuala Terengganu campaign to look into the various factors for the defeat.

"By culture and image, I mean the values and attitude of Umno leaders at all levels. We must show values that are accepted by and attractive to the rakyat," he told reporters here today.

He explained that this was not limited to the top leadership as the public interacted with Umno and BN leaders at the grassroots level.

"So they will evaluate Umno based on grassroots leaders."

Najib said the party acknowledged and respected the choice of the people and would now have to present a more positive image to voters and the public at large.

He also said that some elements of a post-mortem would be brought to coalition partners at the BN convention scheduled for next month.

"But we already know some of the features and sources of the defeat," he concluded.