Razak's former deputy selected as new BN leader
Ousted Malaysian leader Najib Razak's party has chosen his former deputy as its new leader, party officials said Sunday, after a shocking May election loss broke its decades-old political reign.
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 65, was elected president of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) after defeating two former ministers.
Official results saw Ahmad receive 78 nominations from the party's 191 divisions while Khairy Jamaluddin won 53 and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was handed 28 nominations.
Ex-premier Najib's long-ruling coalition, long dogged by corruption allegations, lost the May 9 elections to a reformist alliance headed by Mahathir Mohamad.
Najib quit as Umno president days later, and now faces an anti-graft probe over allegations that billions of dollars were looted from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
Both Najib and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.
The coveted presidency of Umno once meant a clear path to becoming prime minister.
But Umno, which led the former ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, saw key allies desert after the polls with a number cozying up to Mahathir's Pact of Hope alliance.
However, it remains the multi-ethnic country's single largest political party, boasting some three million members and 52 MPs.
Penang Institute political scientist Wong Chin Huat said he did not believe that Ahmad's win would improve Umno political chances.
"(Ahmad's) victory signals a reluctant, opportunistic and combative opposition which will not change itself," he told AFP.
"(It) only hopes to change everything else including voters' perception."
Razak's ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, suffered an election loss after Mahathir Mohamad, a former leader of the BN party came out of retirement and went head-to-head against his protege Najib Razak for the position of prime minister.
While many were expecting an easy victory for Razak's BN coalition - who had held onto power for six decades by controlling the media, government, police and electoral apparatus - Mahathir's surprise return caused what opposition dubbed a "Malay tsunami" and ousted BN from its tight grip on power.
The shock victory only highlighted the depth of disillusionment the country had with former leader Razak, who had previously denied any wrongdoing and said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family.