KUALA LUMPUR: From a lifetime mistake to an opportunity of a lifetime - 42-year-old youth chief of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) Khairy Jamaluddin is now throwing his hat into the ring to become its next president.
Khairy is urging UMNO’s rank and file to seize the one-time opportunity on Jun 30 to elect him as president in order to save the party after having suffered its worst defeat in the last general election on May 9.
In an interview last month with Channel NewsAsia after the election, Khairy had described it as a mistake that he would have to live with for the rest of his life for failing to listen and speak up for the people.
Instead he, like many in UMNO, were "drunk by their own Kool-aid" and rallied behind former prime minister Najib Razak who has been plagued by a corruption scandal over state investment fund 1MDB.
But all this may now change.
Some 117,000 members from UMNO branch and divisional levels will be choosing the new leadership line-up to chart the future direction of the party that had lost 40 per cent of its seats in GE14.
IT’S NOW OR NEVER
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia after chairing his first news conference as presidential candidate on Wednesday (Jun 20), Khairy said the party has nothing to lose by betting on him.
If they missed the window this time round, the party may not make a comeback, he cautioned.
"Look, we have done things a certain way all this while, look at where it has gotten us, I want to do something different, we have got nothing to lose.
“We have to cleanse the party completely and I hope to do that when I become president," he said.
A LIFETIME COMMITMENT
The candidates up against him in the UMNO polls include former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is the acting UMNO president, and party veteran 81-year-old Kelantanese prince Tengku Razaleigh.
While age is on his side, Khairy stressed that it's a contest of ideas and not of personalities. He said he has concrete plans to rebuild the party and restore public confidence.
"This is a lifetime commitment for me, I am still 42, I will be around for as long as it takes.
"It’s a long and hard road back to power, I am not sure if there’s such a road but I am someone who will stick it out for a long time."
IS UMNO WORTH FIGHTING FOR?
When asked why he thinks the 72-year-old party is still worth fighting for, Khairy said the people did not reject UMNO fully. He added that UMNO must get its act together in order to provide checks and balances on the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
"We still got 30 per cent of the votes, 50 seats in parliament," he said.
"That means a lot of people still believe in us, maybe not the majority, but many people feel UMNO still has a role to play not just for the Malay community, but for Malaysians as an effective opposition now and one day as a viable alternative to the government."
Earlier at the news conference, Khairy outlined his priorities if he is voted in as party president.
Among them, he said he would form a shadow cabinet to scrutinise policies of the PH government led by Mahathir Mohamad before the new parliament session begins in July.
He added that he would make sure that party elections are held every three years without delay, so that all office bearers are accountable to members, including the party president.
An independent body will be formed to scrutinise party actions, Khairy said.
While UMNO may not be opening its membership to other races in the near future, he said efforts will be made to ensure that there is a multi-racial platform through its political coalition.