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Too early and too late

  • Umno members generally blame Najib and GST for the defeat, and tend to overlook the party's outdated ideology, corruption, money politics and other problems. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Sin Chew Daily

Mahathir said Khairy Jamaluddin was the best candidate for Umno presidency.

No one knows whether the prime minister was serious about it, but Khairy really jumped into the ring in the last minute before the nomination closed.

Khairy's participation in the presidential race could be a little too early but also too late.

Sounds conflicting? Not really!

Talking about too late, his camp revealed on the eve of nomination that he would run for party president, not the VP post announced earlier.

The news messed up Umno's election war scenario, because Khairy was already in Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's list, which went like this: president Ku Li, deputy president: Mohamad Hasan, vice presidents Mohd Khaled Nordin, Johari Abdul Ghani and Khairy.

The pragmatic line up is a reflection of the reformist camp within the party, which obviously has been drawn up to challenge Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Ahmad Zahid's line-up, from deputy presidential candidate Annuar Musa to VP candidates Mahdzir Khalid, Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, belong to the conservative rightists that prefer to keep the status quo.

There were more than enough members in the reformist camp but not a commander. In the end, they picked a veteran leader to lead them.

To be honest, Ku Li is not the best candidate. He has been out of Umno mainstream for way too long and has little influence in the party.

Ku Li was initially undecided, but after Johor, Negeri Sembilan, and Khairy's Youth wing pledged full support for him, he made up his mind to join in the race.

The plan was drawn, but all of a sudden, Khairy changed his mind and wanted to fight for the top party post himself, messing up the reformist camp's design and making himself a target of public wrath. Some in the camp accused him of creating a split that would in the end benefit Ahmad Zahid.

Strategically, Khairy's announcement indeed came a little too late. If he had made up his mind before Ku Li finalized his decision, perhaps Ku Li would also change his mind, or perhaps Khairy could strike a deal with Mohamad Hasan on who among the two of them should run for deputy presidency instead.

With the reformist camp having to pick between Ku Li and Khairy, sure enough the strength will be diluted.

Khairy's late decision might cost him the opportunity to lead the party's reformist camp. How is he going to put things together in under two weeks, and how is he going to convince the grassroots?

Now talking about his decision coming too early. Whether Ku Li will be in the race or whether Ahmad Zahid is an opponent, obviously this is not yet the best time for Khairy to run for the party's top post, because neither his party nor he himself is adequately prepared for the battle.

Umno is still at a crossroads at this moment. Despite the party's defeat in the 14th general elections, a self awareness is still generally lacking in the party.

Umno members blame Najib and GST for the defeat, and tend to overlook the party's outdated ideology, corruption, money politics and other problems.

Many think that they can win the trust of the Malay community and be back in Putrajaya five years from now, if they change a new leader and no longer have to bear the weight of the previous administration.

Reform to them is a very tall order, which requires them to forsake the vested interest. They think they should just take things easy and wait for a chance to come back.

This mentality goes very well with the conservative camp that prefers to stick to the status quo, not to mention the vested interests nationwide will team up to block any effort to reform the party.

If Khairy is really serious about reforming, he should perhaps realize that one electoral defeat will not alter the way Umno members think. They need a much bigger shock, more trying challenges and deeper reform education in order to transform Umno.

He can bring the new generation forces together and instill a reformist mentality into the whole being of Umno to deliver the party out of the stereotyped image for a brand new modus operandi.

Just spend three years to oil up the reformist engine. After three years, the steam of the "status quo" faction will run out of steam and the vested interests will gradually disintegrate. That is when Khairy has the best prospects in the presidential race.

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