Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mukhriz and Khairy: Battle of the princes-in-waiting

Khairy Jamaluddin and Mukhriz Mahathir
heading towards clash for Umno Youth top post
a proxy battle
for their fathers, some say

October 16, 2008

THEIR fight for the top post in Umno Youth has been described as a proxy war between PM Abdullah Badawi and former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Click to see larger image
NEXT IN LINE: Mr Khairy Jamaluddin (below) and Mr Mukhriz Mahathir (above) are tussling for the Umno Youth leadership position. PICTURES: CHINA PRESS, SINCHEW DAILY

Mr Khairy Jamaluddin is PM Abdullah's son-in-law and Mr Mukhriz Mahathir is Dr Mahathir's son.

So far, it seems that the Abdullah camp is faltering: The PM has announced he will not contest party polls next year and Mr Khairy is trailing behind Mr Mukhriz in latest nominations.

Mr Mukhriz, 44, has cleared the requisite 38 nominations while Mr Khairy, 32, has 20.

Despite this, many still expect Mr Khairy, a Rembau MP, to clear his first hurdle.

To date, 119 youth divisions have yet to hold their meetings to decide on which candidate to support.

Even though two other candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for the post, Umno watchers are focused on the Khairy-Mukhriz battle.

Click to see larger image

Mr Khairy's rise to power within a short time is phenomenal.

In the span of a few years, he has gone from a special assistant to PM Abdullah to Umno Youth deputy chief and a Member of Parliament.

But his close association with his father-in-law has attracted critics, most vocal of whom is Dr Mahathir.

Jerlun MP Mukhriz, on the other hand, has been praised for his maturity and wisdom, said the New Straits Times.

His quiet ways have long given him solid support from members: He was the Youth exco member who gained the most votes in the last party election.

Yet critics feel he is his father's puppet and that his political career would be continuously influenced by Dr Mahathir.


He even acknowledges this himself.

Said Mr Mukhriz in a recent interview: 'I don't even pretend to disassociate myself from him. I can't. I do agree with many things he says, and I'm proud of him.

'You may say it's an unfair advantage but I think by now, people would have seen that I'm my own man .'

Political legacies aside, both men will have to convince their supporters that they can do the job.

And the key issue at stake is younger voters. Umno Youth failed to deliver the young Malay votes in the 8 Mar general election. Umno's candidate also lost the support of younger voters in the Permatang Pauh by-election in August.

The new leader therefore faces the tough task of reinventing the wing and winning back the young ground.

And both have been hard at work sweetening the ground.

Mr Khairy has campaigned extensively the last few months and even has a 'war team' comprising some seasoned faces including a former journalist and a couple of bright, young individuals.

Mr Mukhriz's strategy has been to cast himself as the underdog, sincere and able.

He claimed: 'I notice that they share my views, that Umno needs a drastic renewal among the young people. My 'Dare to Change' campaign tagline has been accepted and is palatable to them.'

Noted Umno Youth politician Zulflida Tahmali: 'The wind for Mukhriz is very powerful this time.'

Others say that age is Khairy's advantage as he can relate more to the grassroots - the youths - he needs to engage if he wins.

It may be early days yet, but it is certain that whoever wins has a chance not only to carve a prestigious political career, but continue a political legacy.

source: Battle of the princes-in-waiting
Electric New Paper, Singapore