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Khairy versus Tok Mat, a clash of titans in Negeri Sembilan?

With speculation swirling over Khairy Jamaluddin's future post-Umno, questions are also raised about the effect that BN's ties with PH might have at the state election.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
3 minute read
Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan and former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan and former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

With elections looming in six states this year, speculation is swirling around former Umno man Khairy Jamaluddin, who was sacked from his party in January and has yet to give any indication of where he might be inclined to go. 

Since his sacking, Khairy, the former Umno Youth chief, has kept himself busy with his "Keluar Sekejap" podcast and recently said he did not want to rush into a decision just because of the upcoming elections. 

But the announcement by Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin that Khairy had been offered both membership and a spot on the Bersatu Supreme Council has renewed debate on the future of the man who only last year stated his intention to become prime minister one day. 

If he accepts Muhyiddin's invitation, the former Rembau MP might be assigned to lead the opposition pact in Negeri Sembilan, setting him up as a likely candidate for the position of menteri besar. 

In the event that such a scenario plays out, his biggest challenge might be Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan, who was fielded in Rembau instead of Khairy at the 15th general election (GE15) last year. 

Mohamad, popularly known as Tok Mat, won the race in Rembau and Khairy's spot in Parliament, while Khairy himself was fielded in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) stronghold of Sungai Buloh, eventually losing to the candidate from PKR. 

Khairy had held the seat of Rembau for three terms prior to GE15 while Mohamad has been the state assemblyman for Rantau since 2004. 

The question in the event of a clash in Negeri Sembilan would be whether Khairy, who has held three Cabinet portfolios so far, will be able to defeat Mohamad, who led the state for 14 years before his administration fell to PH in 2018. 

Several residents in the Rantau area said Khairy appeared the more popular of the two, although Mohamad might have the advantage in the state constituency. 

Roslan Aziz, who has lived in Siliau for nearly 60 years, said voters in the area would find it hard to forget Mohamad's service to the community and the development he brought to the state. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said Mohamad's legacy included the development of Bandar Sri Sendayan and the construction of the Sri Sendayan Mosque.

"Many voters like Khairy, but if he goes head to head with Tok Mat, more of them might side with Tok Mat, at least in this area," he said. 

"Khairy might have the upper hand if he contests in one of the other state constituencies in Rembau."  

Razali Kajun from Bandar Ekar said Barisan Nasional (BN) might lose Rantau if Khairy contests with candidates other than Mohamad. 

"Tok Mat's influence is still strong here. Many support Umno because of him. 

"If Tok Mat goes up against Khairy, I think the competition will be stiff, but if BN fields some other candidate, Khairy might win big," Razali, who has lived in the area for 12 years, added. 

Noraini Hamzah from Kampung Felda Sendayan said she would still vote for Tok Mat despite Umno's newfound ties with DAP. 

However, she said this would change if Mohamad campaigned under the DAP banner. 

"If BN fields another candidate or if Tok Mat comes here carrying a DAP flag, I'm sorry but I will say no," she said. 

"Before this, we were asked to reject DAP and any other party from PH. Now, they are asking us to vote for them. This is why many voters are disappointed with Tok Mat." 

Political analyst Ahmad Atory Hussain said the cooperation between Umno and PH might affect the confidence of voters in Negeri Sembilan, paving the way for PN to make more inroads in the state. 

Atory, of Universiti Sains Malaysia, said PN would benefit even more if Khairy agreed to join its ranks and lead its machinery in Negeri Sembilan against PH and BN. 

"If PN fields Khairy, it would be a good move on its part as Tok Mat is about the only other popular candidate in the state," he added. 

"Umno's cooperation with PH will jeopardise Tok Mat's popularity, giving PN more ammunition at the polls.

"Umno is seen as having strayed from its original principles, and this will be PN's strategy to take down the party in Negeri Sembilan."