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United Malays National Organization

The United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu in Malay, is the largest political party in Malaysia and a founding member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled the country uninterrupted since independence.


After the British returned to Malaya in the aftermath of World War II, the independence movement started to take wing to oppose the British plan of a Malayan Union. A series of Malay congresses were held, culminating in the formation of UMNO on May 11, 1946 at the Third Malay Congress in Johor Bahru, with Datuk Onn Jaafar at its head.

However, membership in UMNO was and continues to be limited to members of the Malay (bumiputra) race, and Onn Jaafar's attempt to change this policy and the party's name into the United Malaya National Organization was rejected in 1951. Onn Jaafar resigned in protest, but his role was taken up by Tunku Abdul Rahman who steered the country to independence in 1957.

Independent Malaysia

In the 1959 general elections, Malaysia's first, the Alliance coalition led by UMNO won 51.8% of the votes, resulting in 74 out of 104 seats, enough for an absolute two-thirds majority. The Alliance (now known as the Barisan Nasional) has maintained this majority ever since, with the notable exception of the 1969 elections where the Alliance's share dropped to 45%, resulting in the racial riots known euphemistically as the May 13 Incident.

After the separation and independence of Singapore in 1965, the Singapore branch of UMNO was renamed the Singapore Malay National Organization (Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Singapura).

UMNO's share of votes has steadily declined since Islamic party PAS's emergence onto the political scene in the 1990 general elections. In 1999, rocked by the arrest and trial of former UMNO deputy Anwar Ibrahim and the subsequence formation of the Barisan Alternatif opposition coalition, UMNO's share dipped to 54% of the vote and 102 out of 144 seats despite allegations of vote-rigging.

See also: List of political parties in Malaysia, Politics of Malaysia

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