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Najib tries to defend UMNO as it gets attacked from all fronts - malaysiakini

Malaysian Insider's report:

By Neville Spykerman

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12- Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, today denied UMNO was a party of extremists, amid a campaign to by Pas to portray it as racist or anti-Chinese in the Kuala Terengganu by-election campaign.

"UMNO is not an extreme party because we have always adopted very moderate and pragmatic policies." said Najib, to counter the election strategy adopted by the Islamist party, to woo Chinese voters.

In Kuala Terengganu, banners with images of former Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, with the words "UMNO is becoming more extreme" in Mandarin, have been put up.

The banners are an indication of an increasingly tight race, in which both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pas are fighting hard to woo the Chinese swing votes in the expectation that the majority Malay support will be shared evenly between the two parties.

Pas's strategy is clearly to remind Chinese voters of the antics of Datuk Ahmad Ismail, who labelled the Chinese squatters last year, and the recent remarks of Mukhriz, who suggested a single national education system to replace vernacular schools.

Umno, on the other hand, have been using the hudud issue to drive a wedge between Pas and its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partner DAP. Pas's support for hudud, the strict Islamic code which prescribes stoning, amputation and whipping as punishment for criminal offences, is also being exploited by BN to scare away any Chinese support for the Islamist party.

Najib, who has been one of the driving forces behind BN's campaign in Kuala Terengganu, described Pas's tactic of using Ahmad's and Mukhriz's words against Umno, as an opportunistic play by the opposition.

He said voters should judge Umno by its policies and not by the statements of individuals.

"Statements from individuals do not constitute policy."

He added that UMNO could also resort to such tactics, if they wanted, because the opposition had also made extreme comments which can upset the Malay community

Malaysiakini's report when out.