UMNO: Looking Back and Looking Forward
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR
Malaysia in Transition Seminar Series
About the Seminar
The United Malays’ National Organization (UMNO) was founded in 1946 in response to the establishment of the Malayan Union by the British. Initially formed as an umbrella organization of many Malay political organizations, the party grew in size, strength and organizational capacity during the 1940s and 1950s.
Following local government elections held in the early 1950s, UMNO came together with the Malaysian Chinese Association and Malayan Indian Congress to form the Alliance. This political grouping played a fundamental role in pushing for independence and negotiating the terms of separation with the British and traditional rulers.
UMNO has been the source of many of Malaysia’s founding fathers and all of its prime ministers. Over time, the party has expanded throughout Malaysia and has also evolved organizationally, as its membership has changed, and the party has undergone important episodes of institution-building and centralization. UMNO’s influence within the ruling coalition, national office, and Malaysia’s political life has also grown consistently, with 1969 being an important inflexion point.
From 1957 until May of this year, UMNO and the Alliance’s successor, Barisan Nasional, had an unbroken hold on power. While the 14th General Elections marked the end of Barisan Nasional’s hold on power, they also constituted an important reversal for UMNO, which saw its seats in parliament fall to 54 from 88 in 2013. Following the resignation of Najib Razak as Party President and the election of his successor Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, UMNO is now seeking to find its place as an opposition party as well as plan for the future.
This seminar will do two things. First, it will look at UMNO’s development as an organization from its inception up until the present. It will trace the party’s historical development and analyze key events during its emergence and consolidation in order to understand which developments had a determinant effect on its outlook and why. Second, the seminar will look at the current juncture, and study how internal events within the party contributed to the electoral outcomes seen in May. From there, it look at the future of UMNO, by analyzing some proposed reforms and their implications for the party’s relevance within Malaysia’s political context.
About the Speakers
Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk is an Associate Professor and Director at the Center for Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). He obtained a B.A. in political science from DePaul University in 1998 and completed his M.A. and PhD in political science at the University of Malaya. His scholarly works have been published by leading academic journals such as Kajian Malaysia (Journal of Malaysian Studies), Akademika, and Pertanika. Dr Azeem writes regularly for CenPRIS’ column in the New Sunday Times. He has been a visiting scholar at: the Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University; the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University; and the Department of Social Sciences, the University of Fribourg.
Zaidel Baharuddin has been a member of UMNO since 2007. During that time he has occupied the following positions within the party and Barisan Nasional: BN Youth Executive Secretary; Director for BN Youth Volunteers; and Vice-Chair for the UMNO Youth Public Speaking Unit. At present, he is the Head of the UMNO Branch for Gombak, Selangor. Mr Zaidel has also worked as a policy researcher and speech-writer at the Ministries of Home Affairs and Domestic Trade. An Electronics Engineer by training, he started his political journey by hanging posters and canvassing votes house-by-house for UMNO, and has been through countless by-elections, state elections, and several general elections.