Oct 20, 2008

Khairy is now underdog in Umno Youth race

Khairy Jama­luddin is within a whisker of qualifying to contest the Umno Youth chief post. He has amassed 36 nominations, just three shy of hitting the mark to be eligible to contest in the March party elections.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 – With only two weeks left to the end of Umno divisional delegates meetings, Umno Youth deputy chief, Khairy Jamaluddin, with only 33 nominations, remains the underdog for the contest to lead the wing, trailing far behind Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who has received 60 nominations, while Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo, received 26.

Mukhriz obtained the minimum 38 nominations required to contest for the post on Oct 12, just three days after the start of divisional meetings, while Khairy is still struggling to get the 20% nominations.

Some observers blamed it on the decision by Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi not to defend the party presidency. At the same time, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had also urged Umno members to get rid of Abdullah’s men in the new administration.

The Rembau MP even failed to get a nomination from Putrajaya Umno, a division perceived to be inclined towards him as the Youth chief, Datuk Zaki Zahid is also a special officer to the Prime Minister.

He obtained only 22 votes, while Mukhriz got 33 and Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo, 22. A total of 90 delegates attended the meeting on Saturday afternoon that lasted for more than six hours.

However, Zaki retained his position, beating former Putrajaya Umno Youth exco member Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz, by merely three votes. Some delegates had predicted that Zaki would be another casualty in the uprising against Abdullah and his men.

Zaki was laughing when asked to interpret the voting trend, but admitted he would prefer someone else to be nominated for the Umno Youth chief post.

“I wish him congratulations; I was there when he came on Thursday, he was welcomed here in Putrajaya, although my personal preference is different, but we abide by the choice made by the delegates here,” said Zaki.

But for Tun Faisal, who is also a special officer to Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Husein, the signal for change from the delegates was very clear. He agreed that he did not totally lose the fight, as the division had nominated Mukhriz.

Newly elected Putrajaya Umno Youth deputy chief, Hishamuddin Yahya however was a little shocked by the nomination but not surprised with Zaki’s victory.

He added that less than 48 hours before the start of the meeting the fight for nomination was between Khir and Mukhriz.

“All three candidates were here to meet the delegates, Khairy came on the last day, the delegates have already decided to choose either Khir Toyo or Datuk Mukhriz,” said Hishamuddin, who initially thought Khir would be nominated by the division.

“Maybe the delegates were more impressed with Mukhriz’s campaign work,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He said that Zaki’s victory shows that leaders linked to Abdullah are not rejected by the party grass roots.

“It is not right to reject someone just because he is connected to the Prime Minister, every leader must be judged individually, it is unfair, just because the Prime Minister is retiring. And Zaki is an active Youth leader, so he was judged based on his performance,” said Hishamuddin.

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