Mahathir attacks Najib: Umno's election hopes 'rest on' Youth chief Khairy

UMNO'S hope lies with Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and young cadres of similar calibre if the ruling party is to stand a chance of winning the next general election, Datuk Kadir Jasin, a close associate of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, told The Straits Times.

"The party should not rely heavily on veterans like Dr Mahathir," said Mr Kadir, who was group editor-in-chief of New Straits Times during Tun Dr Mahathir's administration.

"The opposition Pakatan is full of young people and Umno must keep up with the competition. If Umno were to lose, it will be very difficult to win back elections at the federal level and Khairy will then be head of opposition for a long time," he said.

"Umno used to be full of young people. Najib was only 21 years old when he was first elected MP. Today, few young people want to join the party," he added.

Mr Kadir's comments come as Dr Mahathir showed no signs of letting up on his attacks against Prime Minister Najib Razak.

While Mr Khairy has voiced support for Datuk Seri Najib, he is the only Cabinet minister to publicly say that the Prime Minister should answer all the questions raised by Dr Mahathir.

"I think, if we ignore this, things will get worse," media reports quoted him as saying.

But Mr Khairy disagrees that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition will lose in the next election under Mr Najib. The Prime Minister is facing intense public scrutiny over the debt-ridden state-owned investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The Oxford-educated Mr Khairy, 39, is the son-in-law of former premier Abdullah Badawi, who resigned under pressure from Dr Mahathir in 2009.

Mr Khairy, too, found himself on the receiving end of Dr Mahathir's barbs. He was accused of exerting undue influence over his father-in-law and his administration despite not holding any position in government.

In 2009, he was elected Umno Youth chief, defeating Dr Mahathir's son, Mukhriz, and former Selangor chief minister Khir Toyo. He successfully won re-election in 2013.

Charismatic and intelligent, Mr Khairy is one of the few Umno leaders who are popular with young Malays. His Twitter account has 950,000 followers.

But to his detractors, he is ambitious and his confidence sometimes comes across as arrogance.

When his father-in-law first stepped down, some thought it was the end of his nascent political career. But Mr Khairy bounced back with convincing victories in both party and general elections.

The political star of this father of three boys is clearly rising.

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