While Umno was once synonymous with Malay politics, the party is now in third place after PAS and Bersatu, former Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin said today, days after his sacking grounds of violating party discipline.
"Sadly, the Malays have moved on from Umno. They no longer believe that without Umno, the issues of race and religion will not be championed.
"They are looking for other ways to fight for these issues," he said in an interview with Astro Awani tonight.
Umno chalked up its worst electoral performance ever at the Nov 19 polls last year, winning just 26 seats throughout the country.
Khairy said Umno remained relevant for now as it was part of the coalition government led by Pakatan Harapan.
"But who knows whether Umno will still be needed at the next general election," he said.
"What if it wins only 15 seats at GE16? Who would give us a second glance?"
Khairy, who had held the health, science, technology and innovation, and youth and sports portfolios under various administrations, said this made it all the more crucial for Umno to open all party posts to contest at its elections, so that it could be seen to have changed.
"It's important to have a president who is given the mandate," he said.
"If Zahid wins, it's Zahid," he added, referring to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"Without the mandate of the party members, the Malays will say that we lack the courage to bring about change from within."
Khairy was one of two Umno leaders sacked by the Supreme Council last week in what was seen as a purge of those critical of the top leadership.
The former youth chief was given the boot alongside ex-Tanjung Karang MP Noh Omar.
Khairy had, while on the campaign trail, openly stated his ambition to become Umno president and prime minister.
After his sacking, he said he was assessing all of the offers on the table, including from other political parties.
Khairy was transferred out of his Rembau seat at last year's general election to make way for Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan.
He contested in Sungai Buloh, eventually losing to the PKR candidate by a majority of more than 2,000 votes.