PETALING JAYA: Lawyer-activist Azhar Harun today voiced support for Khairy Jamaluddin as Umno president, but warned that the youth leader would likely be seen as “not Umno enough”.
In a Facebook post, he said Khairy would be the face of a “new Umno” that was more liberal and progressive than its current form.
“I would make no secret of my hope that KJ will win the Umno presidency, because an Umno under him would be a great counterbalance of tradition and progression.
“But, from deep within Umno, the likes of KJ are never ‘Umno enough’,” he said.
Azhar, popularly known as Art Harun, said in “Umno lingo”, “not Umno enough” was akin to not being “Melayu enough” and “not Islam enough”.
“In Umno,” he said, “this is a state of being in a Godforsaken place that is neither here nor there.
“And when you are in this position in Umno, there is a certain level of distrust or intolerance that you suffer from.”
He gave the example of Pakatan Harapan chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah, who left Umno for PKR in 2015.
He said Saifuddin had been one of Umno’s most progressive MPs, known for his convictions on fair play and principled politics.
“Despite being popular and generally seen as a good man, he lost his Supreme Council contest, simply because he was not Umno enough.
“The same would, I think, prove to be KJ’s Achilles heel in this contest. Most unfortunately.”
Yesterday, Khairy confirmed that he would contest the post of party president, joining, among others, acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the race.
In a Facebook post, he said his last-minute decision to contest the party’s top post “wasn’t easy” but that he wanted to provide members with a choice as the party elections were now open to all.
Azhar said Zahid might maintain the support of “the old warlords and power-makers”, adding that the acting president would be “a really tough nut to crack” as he had “gone to the proverbial hell and come back alive and better”.
“He will fight hard and will stop at almost nothing.”
He said Tengku Razaleigh, meanwhile, was “neither here nor there”.
“Too much of a politician to make any real impact, policy or action wise. He may one day drift into liberalism and progressiveness, saying something right about freedom, liberty, justice and fairness.
“The next day, he may jump into the ‘hak Melayu’ and ‘mertabatkan Islam’ pond, quite comfortably. And both in very believable fashion.”
However, faced with the two extremes that were Zahid and Khairy, he said he believed Umno would opt for the “middle path” represented by Tengku Razaleigh, better known as Ku Li.
“Umno loves this, because it is non-conviction at its best. It leaves room for interpretation, and a change of stance, if need be, later.
“Ku Li, I think, will win the presidency. And I say that with no disrespect meant for either Zahid or KJ.”