JOHOR BARU, Aug 25 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today reminded his detractors in Umno that any attempt to change the party’s president will only be possible during the party’s election in three years’ time.

He called on members wishing for a leadership change to respect Umno’s democratic process and the office of its president, adding that it was pointless to push for any sudden change.

“It is better for is to look ahead and continue to build our strength.

“Even yesterday, there was an Umno Women wing solidarity event to defend the president’s institution where they agreed that the most important message to maintain the party’s president post,” he told reporters tonight after closing a youth programme at the B5 Street Market in Tampoi here today.

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Also present were Rural and Regional Development Deputy Minister Datuk Rubiah Awang and Johor state secretary Tan Sri Azmi Rohani, who is also the South-east Johor Development Board (Kejora) chairman.

Over the past week, some Umno leaders and grassroots members have demanded that Ahmad Zahid step down as president following the party’s poor showing in the recently concluded six state elections.

Umno fared badly as the Malay nationalist party managed to win only 19 out of 108 seats contested.

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Ahmad Zahid, who is also the deputy prime minister, said he was aware that the calls for him to vacate Umno’s top post was also due to outside influences.

He advised the group to put their trust in the party’s democratic system as it was a better method than forcing a leader to step down.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman, said that the most important thing now is for the party to regain its trust and rebuild its strength.

He said it is not the right time to find fault with others, as all members needed to be united in strengthening the party.

“When BN won the Melaka state election by more than three-quarters, no one told the party president to resign.

“Similarly, when we won the Johor state election, securing more than two-thirds majority, again there was no such insistence,” said the Bagan Datuk MP.

In fact, Ahmad Zahid said no one praised the party president at that time when we won seven by-elections.

“In politics there must be ups and downs,” he said.