By Ida Lim
The Malaysian Insider
October 13, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — The return of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “allies” Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abd Jalil back into their posts as Umno Youth and Wanita chiefs last night will cement the prime minister’s own position in the Barisan Nasional (BN) lynchpin, analysts have said.
According to analysts, Najib, who has himself returned unopposed as Umno president recently, now has his feet planted firmly on the ground, and has been given the green light to proceed with his transformation plans with the same team of soldiers.
Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, a political analyst from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), pointed out that both Khairy and Shahrizat already support Najib’s national policy of transformation.
“If they win, I think they will strengthen Najib’s position in Umno,” he told The Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday shortly before the duo’s twin victories, after noting their appointments to positions within the Najib administration this year.
When results streamed in at 3.30am this morning, both incumbents Shahrizat and Khairy were confirmed victors with the former scoring a near-landslide victory with 100 votes from the 191 divisions, and the latter not far behind with 97 votes.
After the May 5 federal polls, Khairy was appointed a minister in Najib’s Cabinet, while Shahrizat was appointed a special adviser to the prime minister on women affairs.
Najib, who is also Umno president, had just retained his party president seat last month when no contenders stepped forward to challenge him.
Dr Faisal Hazis, an academic from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), said the Khairy and Shahrizat’s victories “would definitely consolidate Najib’s faction in the party since both of them are aligned to him”.
Prof Dr James Chin from Monash University’s Malaysian campus said that the status quo would benefit Najib.
“If both win, then Najib wins. Najib wants no change in order to cement his power,” he wrote in an email reply to The Malay Mail Online, saying that the duo’s defeat would have been equivalent to a victory for the faction belonging to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and indicated “big trouble ahead for Najib”.
When commenting on Khairy’s victory, Chin viewed it as the party grassroots’ rejection of a “racist” stand.
“KJ’s win (is) a good omen for Malaysian politics — it shows that the silent majority in UMNO Youth rejects the racist approach of the Mahathir faction,” he said, referring to Khairy by his initials.
“It also shows that UMNO youth understands that the future of Malaysia lies with a multi-racial Malaysia,” he added.
But Chin had a less positive view of Shahrizat’s victory, pointing to the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal that involved a RM250 million federal loan.
“Shahrizat’s win means (Umno) Wanita does not care about public perception of corruption relating to NFC- full stop. It does not care what the public thinks. (Umno) Wanita only cares about (Umno) Wanita,” he claimed.
While noting that Khairy had been able to go beyond race-based politics during his first term as Umno Youth chief, Faisal said his victory “is not because the party is ready for his new brand of politics but because there is no strong challenger”.
“With the new voting system, it would be difficult for challengers especially new faces to unseat incumbents,” he said of Khairy’s win, saying that Shahrizat’s victory was similarly due to the uphill task faced by her challengers in overcoming the incumbent.
Despite the five-corner contest faced by Khairy, Azizuddin said Khairy did not face a “tough fight” to retain his post as the four other challengers were relatively unknown.
Khairy’s position as the incumbent and the newly-minted Youth and Sports Minister also contributed to his win, Azizuddin said.
“The good thing about Khairy is he is moderate and he came out with political brand of progressive. It’s something different coming out from Umno.”
Azizuddin said Khairy’s win was a signal that Umno Youth is “moving towards moderation”, adding that it will transform the party.
“People want Umno to change, to be more progressive, more moderate, not too extreme,” he said.
Azizuddin also attributed Shahrizat’s win to her incumbency, saying that her strength in Umno Wanita coupled with high support from the party grassroots had landed her the win.
“Shahrizat as incumbent has advantage even though she has NFC issue surrounding her,” he said.
But Azizuddin disagreed that Khairy and Shahrizat’s win indicated a lack of strong and capable leaders to take their place, saying that the contests for other posts such as the vice-presidency and the exco for the party wings showed potential able leaders