Better for Khairy to leave Umno before he is pushed out

Tough days are in store for Khairy Jamaluddin – the mercurial but also talented Umno Youth Chief – and chances are high that he may lose the battle being waged against him by his own party mates.

By Wong Choon Mei (Harakah)

The buzz in Umno is that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad wants him out, while Prime Minister Najib Razak – the current party president – is looking for a convenient scapegoat to mask his own lukewarm leadership.

“There is the perception that Khairy is too liberal and he is not doing the job of the traditional Umno Youth Chief. So far, he hasn’t waved the keris again or initiated excessive sloganeering like Hidup Melayu that the hard liners in Umno like to see,” PAS Youth leader Abdullah Karim told Harakahdaily.

“His moderate stance has given opportunities to his enemies especially for Mahathir to take revenge against him. And Najib is close to Mahathir, so he is definitely not going to stick his neck out for Khairy. “

No-confidence vote

According to party watchers, the Umno Youth executive committee plans to table a no-confidence vote against their 33-year old chief very soon.

Apparently, they have already accumulated enough votes to push him out. Plus most importantly, they have also secured the green light from Najib, deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin and not to mention Mahathir, who still wield considerable influence in Umno.

“There may be a tough fight but let’s see whether Khairy can survive this. He may surprise everyone by turning the tables on his enemies,” PKR strategist Tian Chua told Harakahdaily.

“I agree it is premature to write off Khairy,” PAS strategist Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad told Harkahdaily. “It is actually strange for Umno to want to push him out. I would rate him as a definite asset to Umno because he can provide the check and balance the party needs against the hard liners and those with self interest like Dr Mahathir who just refuses to go away.

“In the spirit of sportsmanship, we wish him the best in his fight. Should he find that he can no longer tolerate the racism and the corruption that is overtaking Umno, there is no reason why the doors of Pakatan Rakyat will not be open, provided of course, there is sincere intention on his part to deliver the best to the rakyat of Malaysia,” Dzulkefly added.

Not in sync with Umno’s growing hard line stance

Among the main factors that contributed to Umno Youth’s growing unhappiness with Khairy’s leadership was his recent admission that Umno had unwittingly become an extremist party.

Top Umno leaders including Najib, who had chosen to go on an all-out fight for the loyalty of the Malays at the expense of the other communities to keep the Pakatan at bay, were not unhappy with his pronouncements, which seemingly made them look inadequate and racist.

It did not help either when he roped in Pakatan Youth to jointly condemn the recent spate of attacks against religious places of worship.

“Nobody wants to be a loser, but we’re definitely not straddling the middle ground any more. It might become what PAS used to be — a party that appeals to just a certain base. It’s scary,” Khairy had said during an interview with a foreign newspaper.

Hampered by inability to dish out government goodies

When his father-in-law Abdullah Badawi was the Prime Minister and Umno president, especially during the period between 2004 and 2008, Khairy was considered “untouchable”.

Then the Umno Youth No. 2, he had no qualms about leading Umno’s ultra-Malay charge to rally support from the community. In fact, so extreme were some of his statements then that BN components, MCA and Gerakan, had blamed him for their electoral losses in the 2008 general election.

Why the sudden turnaround now? Is it faked or has Khairy really matured with the years?

“It would be better for someone like Khairy to leave Umno before they drag him through the mud. When he was the deputy chief, he played the part of the Malay extremist very well but that is not the real KJ. He is an Oxford graduate and has a very cosmopolitan outlook. As he matures, he is finding out more and more that Umno is not the place for him,” Abdullah said.

“Another important factor why Khairy is weakened now is not only because Badawi has retired but also because he does have any government or cabinet position to shield and help him. When division heads and other leaders pester him for government contracts and allocations, he cannot do anything for them.

“Perhaps this is why Mahathir insisted that Najib did not give Khairy any cabinet post even though his own son Mukhriz was made a deputy minister after he lost the Youth chief contest to Khairy. As always in Malaysian politics, there is big business and money intertwined.

“It is very much easier to kill off a political foe when he has no more economic pull, unless he is personally wealthy. But how much of personal wealth can one keep spending to stay in power?”