KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 (Bernama) -- After a period of unease following the March 8 general election, Umno is seeing winds of change blowing it towards rehabilitation and consolidation.
There are two vital signs pointing to that, one of which is former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's intention to return after announcing that he was leaving the party on May 19 in a move that had shocked many.
The other is the clarion calls among leaders and grassroots members, urging the party to do away with the quota system for the sake of democracy in the party and to curtail money politics.
The party's divisional elections will begin next month while the main party elections will be held at the party's general assembly from Dec 16-20.
The rumoured cross over of Umno members of parliament to Pakatan Rakyat (PR) so far, is just that -- a rumour -- and is seen as mere political gimmick by PR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Dr Mahathir's intention to return to Umno was announced by vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Tuesday following his meeting with the former prime minister at the latter's house on Saturday.
Party leaders and members welcome the wish of Dr Mahathir, whose Umno membership number is 0000001, to return to the party which he had led for 22 years.
There are many within Umno who express confidence that Dr Mahathir will be able to play an effective role in uniting the grassroots members and restore their support towards Umno and strengthen Barisan Nasional (BN).
News of Dr Mahathir's wish to return to the party came on the heels of Umno's and BN's defeat in the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election last month.
Members and leaders are now concerned about the survival of Umno, which fought the country's independence, if steps are not taken to rehabilitate and institute change in the party.
Meanwhile the quota system, which has been in place since two decades ago and aimed at making sure that candidates are indeed supported by the members, is increasingly harming to the party.
Due to the system, there have been allegations of aspiring candidates going overboard in their attempts to get enough nominations that will qualify them to contest for posts.
The voices of Umno veterans, urging that the quota system be scrapped, are a breath of fresh air in the party and seen as a positive development in creating a vibrant democracy and enable healthy competitions for posts.
Many are wondering why Dr Mahathir changes his mind.
For the record, he has been vocal in his criticism of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and had vowed to return to Umno only upon Abdullah's resignation as prime minister.
Announcing his resignation in May, Dr Mahathir also called on Umno members, MPs and assemblymen to follow him in the attempt to pressure Abdullah to resign, but to no avail.
However, no one can deny that even when no longer holding power and out of the party, Dr Mahathir is still an influential figure, especially among Umno members due to his status as an experienced statesman who has done a lot for Malaysia.
His blog, www.chedet.com, is receiving phenomenal response and with this powerful medium, Dr Mahathir will bring more benefit to Umno being in the party than outside.
Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo said he met Dr Mahathir last week and found that the former prime minister had made a decision to return to Umno unconditionally and without having to be persuaded.
"Perhaps after seeing Umno's and BN's defeat in Permatang Pauh and the party's growing instability, the Tun decides to return, a move that will benefit the party.
I welcome him back and hope that he can assist in stabilising the party," he said.
Dr Mohd Khir, a former Selangor Menteri Besar, said Dr Mahathir is influential not only among the older generation but also among the young.
"The young are still supporting the Tun.
There are six million visitors to his blog in four months and most of them are young people who are IT-savvy," he said.
Meanwhile, the alleged use of money to buy nominations has been giving many in the party a headache.
This could be the reason that prompted Umno disciplinary committee chairman Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail to raise the matter recently and called for its scrapping to protect the party from money politics.
He said that the ever since the system was introduced, the problem of money politics had gotten from bad to worse and is now difficult to curtail.
His suggestion received positive response from various level of the party's leadership who had been keeping quiet previously.
Among those who supported the move was Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, who said that the system was robbing eligible candidates their right to contest and that the system would also detrimental to the party if the nominations were obtained by way of buying them.
Umno veteran Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Tapa felt that it was time to scrap the system to uphold true democracy in the party.
Dr Mohd Khir said party members at the grassroots level had long been voicing out against the system and hoped that the call to do away with it would be taken into consideration this time around for the sake of the party.
An interesting point to note is that the effort to rehabilitate Umno is also being spurred by the party's veterans.
How far the efforts can be successful will depend on the commitment among the leadership to institute the necessary changes in line with the voices of the grassroots.
click here: Consolidation Process Taking Shape In Umno
Bernama, Malaysia -