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Long road to Putrajaya for Khairy, analysts say

Political analysts say it will be difficult for the Rembau incumbent to ascend the party ladder.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Barisan Nasional's Khairy Jamaluddin raises his fist with supporters on nomination day in Sungai Buloh on Nov 5. Photo: Bernama
Barisan Nasional's Khairy Jamaluddin raises his fist with supporters on nomination day in Sungai Buloh on Nov 5. Photo: Bernama

Political analysts see a long road ahead for Khairy Jamaluddin in his goal of one day becoming Umno president and prime minister, as the Rembau incumbent attempts to win over support in what they describe as a Pakatan Harapan (PH) stronghold. 

Mujibu Abd Muis of Universiti Teknologi Mara said while Khairy had the leadership skills needed to fill the top office, it was difficult to tell how far he could climb the Umno ladder given the stranglehold of "warlords" in the party. 

"If Khairy can get past this and succeeds in winning and holding several important factions in Umno, he might be able to become prime minister," he said. 

Khairy, a former youth chief, had in 2018 attempted to run for the post of Umno president. However, he lost to Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. 

Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said Khairy had been fielded in Sungai Buloh because of the risks involved.

Given the demographics of voters who, for the most part, comprise urbanites who prefer multiracial parties, he said Khairy's chances were slim. 

"It will be difficult for him to win," he said. "And the way I see it, the Umno leaders really want to block Khairy." 

Khairy, the Rembau incumbent, was fielded in Sungai Buloh to make way for Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan to contest his seat instead. 

He had held the Rembau seat for three terms before being sent to contest in Sungai Buloh. 

Speaking at a campaign event in the constituency on Nov 8, he voiced ambitions of one day leading Umno and becoming the prime minister, although he reiterated that Ismail Sabri Yaakob would still take the top office if Barisan Nasional (BN) won the Nov 19 polls. 

Mazlan said Khairy's announcement at the event might help draw in support for the health minister ahead of the election. 

"Khairy is smart," he said. "What he said could set off a wave. 

"People will say, 'What's wrong with giving Khairy a chance?' If he wins, this could be his platform to become the next Umno president." 

What if Khairy wins?

Khairy has often been seen as a threat to the main Umno leadership due to his willingness to speak out, including on controversial issues such as the criminal charges against Umno leaders and internal party matters. 

In the event that Khairy pulls off a victory in Sungai Buloh come Nov 19, Mazlan said his ambition of becoming prime minister might be within reach after just one term. 

This is because Umno will hold its party elections six months after the national polls. 

Mazlan said Khairy would then be sure to nominate himself as a candidate for president, to go up against Mohamad. 

"Khairy is 46 years old. In another term, he will hit 50 – an ideal age for a prime minister," he said. 

Nevertheless, he said, Khairy had his disadvantages as well. 

"He is in Umno – a party based on a single race," he said, adding that this would make it difficult for Khairy to rally the support of urban Malays and non-Malays. 

Mujibu meanwhile said it would be better for Khairy to move to another, more open, party.

"If you wait in Umno, it will be difficult for progressives like Khairy to climb the party ladder," he said. 

"Khairy is progressive and Umno is conservative. This is the reality that will make it difficult for him to achieve his goal of becoming prime minister."