Malaysia's No. 2 leader has secured the top post in the ruling party, making it virtually certain that he will succeed the country's unpopular prime minister by April, CNN reports.
Representatives from 138 branches of the ruling United Malays National Organization nominated Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to be the party's next president, according to the party's official count Sunday.
The avalanche of endorsements means Najib has won the post unopposed ahead of party elections in March. A contestant for the party presidency needs the formal support of at least 58 of the party's 191 branches.
Najib's sole rival -- Razaleigh Hamzah, a veteran lawmaker -- has received only one nomination over the past month.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi recently announced he would not defend the party presidency. Support for Abdullah has slumped since he led the governing coalition to its worst results ever in March general elections.
Abdullah has pledged to hand over power after the ruling party's national congress and party elections next March 24-28.
"Najib has won the UMNO presidency unopposed but he will (only) become the president after the term of (Abdullah) expires on March 28 next year," party Secretary-General Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor told Bernama, the national news agency.
Every prime minister since independence in 1957 has been the head of the Malay ruling party, which spearheads a 13-party multiethnic governing coalition.
The coalition's popularity has plunged amid ethnic disputes, a weakening economy and corruption claims. It returned to power with only a simple parliamentary majority in March.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has sought to seize power through parliamentary defections, but his threat has waned in recent weeks as it appeared he could not muster enough support.
However, political uncertainty has persisted because many prominent politicians are vying for other ruling party posts, which are a stepping stone to high-level government positions.