The former Umno president and prime minister said the mainstay Malay party is now suffering from a dearth of talent because many of its divisional and branch chiefs fear losing their position to younger capable leaders.
“The division and branch leaders, they don’t like intelligent people to come into the party because they fear they might lose their posts.
“So what they do is recruited people who are more stupid than them. And this leader dies this someone who is more stupid than them take over. And when this one dies?
“Now we have a party with three generations such leaders. It is now a stupider party,” he said in reply to a question from the floor in youth dialogue event here.
In the run up to Umno’ October polls, Dr Mahathir had called on the party to pave way for new blood, warning the present leadership that if their entire team returns uncontested, Malaysians will remain “disgusted” at the party.
Dr Mahathir, who himself led Umno for over two decades during his tenure as prime minister, previously said Umno needs to shed its image as a corrupt party and the best way to do this is by removing the older, entrenched leaders in favour of the unsullied young leaders.
“Today, many think that Umno is very corrupt. It is even assumed that Umno leaders at all levels had not joined the party to fight for race, religion and the country, but to enrich themselves,” he said in his column in Mingguan Malaysia, the weekend edition of Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia.
“Only by handing over the Umno leadership to the young and unpolluted can this cleansing of Umno become reality, and will be accepted by the community,” Dr Mahathir (picture) added.
Today he reiterated that if most of Umno’s old leaders were to “overstay their welcome”, the party will be rejected by the public.
Observers believe, however, Dr Mahathir’s statement were made to bolster his son’s bid for a Umno vice-president spot.
Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who is also Kedah mentri besar, is one of the three contenders in the race for a spot in Umno’s second echelon while the three incumbents, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal have formed an alliance in a bid to defend their posts.
The other two challengers are party veterans Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam Commenting on this, Dr Mahathir said he had initially expected more contenders to enter the fray.
“But its a healthy sign,” he said when asked to comment on the six-cornered VP race.
“If we don’t have a contest, how can we see the transformation,” he added.
Analysts have pointed out that those voted into Umno’s second echelon will determine the political future of the country.
Despite the amendment to the party constitution to allow a direct election for Umno’s top posts, current president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, retained their positions unopposed.
Dr Mahathir had previously said while he supports the plan to allow the party’s top two posts go uncontested for the sake of unity, all other positions should face challenges during the coming polls.
He also stressed the need to prevent money politics, saying equal punishment must be meted on all those found guilty of such an offence, regardless who they are.