PETALING JAYA, July 7 ― After losing the Umno presidential race last week, Khairy Jamaluddin appears to be taking a break from politics to live life as a tourist.
In a recent posting on Facebook, the Rembau MP shared that he was cycling around Catalonia in Spain and wrote: “I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it”.
The former Umno Youth chief had everything going for him until the Barisan Nasional (BN) lost the May 9 general election, which forced the coalition’s component parties to take stock of their continued existence and see how they can best salvage their situation.
In Umno, the estimated three million members found themselves at a fork: they could continue with the road well travelled, or embrace change in a new political environment that cuts across race and religion.
Khairy had great ideas on how to rejuvenate the 60-year old party to make it relevant going forward.
He sought to awaken Umno members from their slumber and make an effort to adapt to a new political landscape where creative approaches were needed that would still uphold the party’s original objectives and causes it championed.
If the presidential race were a 100m sprint, Khairy lost by a nose.
From the near 45 per cent vote his way, it appears that he did not totally fail but perhaps luck just wasn’t on his side this time as the bulk of the party members who are older showed they were not ready to accept a younger leader.
At 42, Khairy is still considered young. He appears to be trapped within two new groups taking shape in today’s Malay political parties: the new liberal minds and the resurgent Islamic fundamentalists that is prevalent not only in PAS but also Umno.
Since its founding, Umno has adopted a moderate religious path and had been successful in warding off the creep of PAS’ fundamentalist approach in the country, until Election 2008. And then the political landscape changed.
From then on, liberalism grew among Malaysian youths. At the same time, PAS’ religious fundamentalism grew stronger, which led to clashes between the two group as they sought to spread their influence.
Because the Opposition pact then known as Pakatan Rakyat was seen leaning towards liberalism, Umno was seen to side with fundamentalism when it reached out to PAS to facilitate its loss of support among youths.
But Umno lost that war with the 14th general election. And so rudderless, Umno members started on a soul searching quest.
Khairy had jumped into the deep end of the pool then, hoping to ride on the wave of change so the Malay party could emerge stronger to battle with Pakatan Harapan at the next GE due five years from now.
But his ideals, which he offered to his party to develop to sustain its survival, looks similar to the principles toutd by the new Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition; and they didn’t sit very well with the current batch at Umno.
Three leaders who held senior positions have since left Umno: former Puteri Chief Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin (Masjid Tanah), Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal (Bukit Gantang) and Datuk Noor Azmi Ghazali (Bagan Serai). All cited dissatisfied with the current leadership.
For Khairy, the options are limited. He can choose to stay in Umno and play second fiddle to the current line-up that won the internal elections.
Or he could strike out and found his own party that will reflect his idealism and capabilities.
If he chooses the second, he already has three seats and probably the majority of the 40-plus percentage Umno members who shared in Khairy’s vision for a complete overhaul, but failed to push it through in their party polls.