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Mar 12, 2008


PM's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin won, yet he may become biggest loser in M'sian elections
By Patrick Jonas
electric news

HIS political rise has been nothing short of meteoric.

Click to see larger image

Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was seen to be the 'power behind the throne'.

Even before he was elected into parliament, there was already talk that he would be made a minister.

He looked to be a man in a hurry - blogs have it that the 32-year-old had harboured visions of becoming the PM by the age of 40.

Articulate, energetic and cocky, Mr Khairy can charm any audience.

But suddenly, dark clouds have appeared on the horizon and the sheen from his win has vanished.

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad has alleged that the Oxford-educated politician is responsible for Umno's disastrous showing in the elections.

Dr Mahathir told online news portal Malaysiakini after the polls: 'I think his (Badawi's) son-in-law played a big role.

'This young man who has no achievements before but apparently the PM listens to him more rather than the police, the special branch and the armed forces, who are closer to the ground.

Click to see larger image

'They were so taken up with their own newspaper reports that they couldn't hear anything else. They dismissed everything they didn't like.'

The fortunes of the ambitious Mr Khairy are greatly linked to that of Datuk Seri Abdullah.

Four years ago, Mr Khairy was credited with engineering the sweeping win of Mr Abdullah and his team at the polls. Then, Mr Khairy was known as the 'most powerful 28-year-old' in Malaysia.

But he did not want to claim credit openly. Instead, he worked hard to move up the pecking order.

In the last four years, he went from being his father-in-law's special assistant to being an Umno office bearer and now an MP.

Is being minister next on the cards? Or perhaps even replacing his father-in-law?

But if Mr Abdullah goes now, Mr Khairy's voice will get muted and his political growth stunted.

It's better that Mr Abdullah stays on as prime minister for a longer term.

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Datuk Seri Abdullah.

That would give Mr Khairy time to consolidate and build the necessary political support at the ground level.

So strong is the talk in Malaysia of his prime ministerial aspirations that days before the poll, news agency Bloomberg asked him about it.

Noting that he wasn't even an MP yet, he replied: 'I've never even thought about it. To me, you have to take one step at a time.

'We'll see what happens on Saturday.'

He added that even if he wins, his first task would be to serve his constituents.


But can he survive the opposition tsunami that is threatening to sweep away his father-in-law?

So far, Mr Abdullah has been putting up a brave front. He was sworn in yesterday as the PM even as calls for him to step down grow.

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One such call came from Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He's a freshly-elected MP like Mr Khairy.

He told the media that he 'hopes he (Abdullah) takes heed of that message and does the right thing'.

For now, Mr Khairy may lie low for a while. But a man like him cannot be in the shadows for long.

In the last few years, he had already set in motion the machinery to keep him in the limelight.

He created and produced a football reality TV show called MyTeam.

It took him all over Malaysia in search of amateur footballers with the potential to eventually play for the national team.

MyTeam was a hit and its season one finale was the third-highest rated TV show of the year.

Its success got him elected as deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia last September.

MyTeam would be one way for Mr Khairy to get back into the spotlight.

He will also likely grab every opportunity he gets in parliament to put across his points of view.

And his eloquence should see him carry the day.


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