KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia's former ruling party on Saturday elected a familiar face as a new leader as they pushed for power after more than 60 years of spectacular defeat in the May general election.
The United Malaysian National Organization (UMNO) elected Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, formerly Deputy Prime Minister under Prime Minister Najib Razak, for the billion dollar scandal over the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and an unpopular excise tax.
Ahmad Zahid is popular among the base members, but his position as part of the old guard burdened by the 1MDB scandal could do little to restore voters' confidence.
"People have high hopes that UMNO will continue to fight for the interests of religion, race and country," Ahmad Zahid said in a statement after being declared the new party leader.
Ahmad Zahid, named Najib's deputy party chairman, directs the administration at a time of intense scrutiny by the public and authorities.
On Friday, the Malaysian Anticorruption Commission (MACC) froze several UMNO-linked bank accounts as part of its investigation into 1MDB.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told Reuters in June that UMNO was not the only political party to receive 1MDB funds.
Several UMNO legislators have left the party since the election and it has been abandoned by most coalition partners.
U.S. According to the authorities, more than $ 4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and nearly $ 700 million from the fund was diverted to Najib's personal bank accounts.
Najib, who was expelled from the country and questioned by the MACC, denies the misconduct and says that the $ 700 million is a donation from the Saudi royal family.
Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Arrangement of Robin Pomeroy