KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian minister Khairy Jamaluddin threw his hat into the ring on Sunday (June 17), making him one of seven candidates for the Umno president’s race.
Umno officials declined to list the names of all the candidates on Sunday, the last day for nominations, saying it will be revealed on Monday after checks are done to ensure they qualify to contest.
Mr Khairy, 42, is up against several prominent contenders who have announced their candidacy, including acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 65, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 81.
Mr Khairy yesterday showed his Umno nomination form on his Instagram post. He had earlier said he would vie for one of the three vice-president’s posts.
Mr Khairy said in a statement later he changed his mind “after thinking of Umno’s future and survival in today’s circumstances”.
“I decided to contest for the Umno President post because I want party members to have a choice as to which direction Umno needs to be steered.”
He touted Umno reforms as necessary by calling for its total restructuring. “Umno must restore the spirit of openness in all aspects,” he said, citing examples of centrist left policies that espouse freedom to openly express views, criticise leaders without fear of being fired .
Malaysia’s oldest and largest political party has become hierarchical, with power concentrated in the hands of warlords – party elders and chiefs of the 191 Umno divisions nationwide who prioritise seniority and control how party funds are distributed.
Former premier Najib Razak stepped down as president days after leading his coalition to a disastrous loss in last month’s general election.
The shock defeat led Umno to announce an open contest for all posts, paving way for the first presidency contest in 31 years.
In 1987, a No. 1 fight between then-president Tun Mahathir Mohamad and veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah split the party into two with the losing faction forming the Semangat 46 party.
The Umno polls will be held on June 30.
Mr Khairy is keen to capture the party’s imagination to rejuvenate the party. He has suggested that Umno open itself to outsiders holding leadership posts – from academicians, professionals to activists. “We open Umno’s doors widely to whoever who wants to rebuild our party."
Meanwhile, soon after Tengku Razaleigh announced his candidacy on Saturday, Datuk Seri Zahid said he hopes the contest will not split Umno into two.
Several state party leaders have called for Mr Zahid to consider pulling out of the race, as he was part of the Najib team that caused the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition to lose power.