M'sian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin says he's ready to be PM, widening rift with Umno's leaders

He faces an uphill battle in GE15 after being forced to compete in opposition territory.

Andrew Koay | November 11, 2022, 06:14 PM

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Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia's health minister in Ismail Sabri's cabinet, has declared that he is ready to lead Umno and become Prime Minister, according to The Star.

"I am now 46 years old, so I can wait," he said, clarifying that Ismail Sabri Yaakob is still Barisan's GE15 candidate for the post.

"If people in Sungai Buloh vote for me and I win the constituency, I can declare that I walked into the lion’s den and won the seat for Barisan in GE15. I want to lead the country and I want to lead the party.”

An uphill battle in opposition territory

Khairy faces an uphill battle to secure a seat in the upcoming Malaysian general elections, to be held on Nov. 19.

He had previously held the seat of Rembau in Negeri Sembilan for past three terms, since 2008.

Malaysia Now reported that Khairy was fielded in Sungai Buloh for the GE to make way for Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan to contest Rembau instead.

Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, a political analyst interviewed by Malaysia Now, said that Sungai Buloh would be difficult for Khairy to win given its status as a Pakatan Harapan stronghold.

"The way I see it, the Umno leaders really want to block Khairy," said Mazlan.

A rift with party leadership

According to The Straits Times, the rift between the caretaker health minister and Umno's leadership was evident when the former refuted comments by Umno's president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi about why he was contesting Sungai Buloh.

Zahid had said that Khairy requested "to be given the opportunity to contest there".

"In reality, I didn’t have any other choice because the party leadership didn’t give any indication to me where I should go," Khairy was quoted by The Straits Times as saying.

"There were signals from the party leadership and I was not invited to any seat discussions. Nomination day was approaching and I had to do something for myself."

Regarding his interest in the Prime Minister post, Khairy said that his declared intentions would result in the party leaders attempting to "cut him off", reported Free Malaysia Today.

Malaysia Now reported that he has long been viewed as a threat to some in Umno due to his willingness to speak on controversial issues such as criminal charges against Umno leaders and internal party matters.

"I can do things"

Pulling off the victory at GE15, however, might put Khairy's ambition of leading Umno within reach.

"I come to Sungai Buloh not to commit political suicide. I took up this challenge because if I win here, Sungai Buloh is not the limit. One day, we will lead the country," he said.

Speaking at a public event for his campaign, Khairy also cited his track record as Health Minister, claiming credit for the reopening of the Singapore-Malaysia border.

According to Free Malaysia Today, Khairy told voters that he had persuaded Singapore's Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung on reopening the border, who then relayed his recommendations to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a statement by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in Singapore on March 24, PM Lee spoke with Ismail Sabri Yaakob on March 24, and both PMs agreed that it is timely to further reopen the land border, from April 1 2022.

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Top image from Khairy Jamaluddin's Facebook page