Oct 12, 2008

Khairy wants end to right wing Umno politics

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 - Umno Youth Chief contender Khairy Jamaluddin said the party can no longer continue with right-wing politics.

"If you continue with right wing politics and try to convince people this is the way forward then I think you have been left behind," he told The Malaysian Insider recently.

Khairy, who is trailing behind Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir in the nominations race so far, had in recent years positioned himself as a somewhat typical Umno Youth-type firebrand politician who frequently championed the need for a continuation of affirmative action.

But in launching his bid for the Umno Youth Chief's post, he has now turned to the platform of running as a "Malaysian," as opposed to that of"Malay."

He acknowledged the big risk he was taking in trying to push some form of reform agenda for Umno.

"Before this we have been an incestuous organisation. We only mingled among ourselves. Now is the time to reach out.

"There are many out there who are not members of Umno, MCA or MIC Youth. If we don't get them, the opposition is going to get them," said Khairy, when met in Kuala Lumpur recently.

"I have looked at what have happened over the last three to four years and I realized that we have made some strategic errors.

"When I searched my soul after the last general election for a platform that is not only popular but is right, I found this is the platform that is right. And I am willing to risk the Umno youth contest in taking up this platform.

So far, his rival Mukhriz has the edge in the contest for nominations.

And while Khairy talks about ideas and reform, the contest is also fast turning into a battle of personalities in a proxy fight between his father-in-law Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the father of Mukhriz.

At the Besut Umno Youth meeting yesterday, Khairy only obtained seven votes while Mukhriz garnered 200 votes. Even Dr Khir, who is not a favourite in the contest, managed to grab more votes than Khairy. The former Selangor Menteri Besar received 15 votes.

The Besut Umno Youth results appear to suggest there are still many in the party's grassroots who see the contest as one between personalities.

"It is not that Besut doesn't like Khairy, but Mukhriz came to meet the divisional leaders recently," said the newly elected Besut Umno Youth chief, Mahdi Musa.

Mahdi's deputy, Kamarulzaman Idris, was explicit in rejecting Khairy's campaign platform, saying it is not important whether he is standing as a Malay or Malaysian.

"What matters now is for the Umno leadership to convince the Malays and others to have faith in the government and ensure the stability of the country," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Kamarulzaman, who was also newly elected, agrees with his boss that the fact that Mukhriz was here before the meeting helped him in securing the nomination.

"Mukhriz's name was proposed by someone on the stage, while Khairy was proposed by one of the delegates, so the delegates naturally elected the person favoured by the leaders. To get more votes, Khairy's name should have been proposed by one of the Besut Youth leaders," said Kamarulzaman.

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