Umno postpones polls as snap polls loom

By Adib Zalkapli, The Malaysian Insider

In the clearest sign yet that Barisan Nasional (BN) is preparing for general elections next year, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced tonight that party polls scheduled for next year would be put off by 18 months.

The postponement appears to be part of moves to put Umno and BN on an election footing without the distraction of party polls.

Najib’s announcement tonight comes amid intense speculation that he may call snap polls by the first quarter of next year.

His Umno has toned down its race rhetoric while a BN convention this weekend is expected to chart the ruling coalition’s strategies ahead of elections.

BN lost its traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority in Election 2008, and Najib, who became prime minister subsequently after Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was pressured to resign, is understood to be keen on winning his own mandate.

“The supreme council unanimously decided that next year’s election at the branches, divisions and the supreme council level to be postponed up to 18 months,” said Najib after chairing the Umno supreme council meeting here.

“This is provided for under the party constitution and it has been invoked several times. This is not the first time.” 

Najib said the postponement would allow the party to rejuvenate and strengthen itself.

“We do not want next year to be a year of conflict. We do not want to be under so much pressure like another political party,” said Najib in an apparent reference PKR which just completed a divisive party election.

“This is nothing new, you shouldn’t get excited about it. Nothing unusual,” he said when asked if the postponement was to allow the party to focus on snap polls.

It is understood that early polls are being considered because of concerns over an uncertain economic outlook.

The recent crisis in PKR has also given Umno/BN a major boost.