Khairy Jamaluddin is the charismatic 37-year-old chief of the youth section of United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant party within Malaysia’s ruling Barsan Nasional coalition. Khairy, a former television talk show host, is also the Youth and Sports Minister, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, and son-in-law of former prime minister Abdullah Badawi.
Why is he in the news?
Khairy was re-elected to his position as UMNO youth chief on October 12, beating four opponents. His re-election, along with the victory of three incumbent UMNO vice-presidents, has been seen as a sign of continuing support for Prime Minister Najib Razak, and a signal that even the ruling party is not ready to fully embrace its more conservative, pro-Mahathir wing. (Dr. Mahathir was specifically critical of Khairy’s role in the Prime Minister’s Office when his successor Abdullah Badawi was ruling the country.)
What can we expect from him?
Educated in Singapore and London, Khairy is expected to continue his role as a champion for a more inclusive government. Though he has taken very strong anti-American positions, including leading protests against then visiting Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, he is better known for moderate political and religious views, and is seen as a progressive voice in the party.
Since his run in with Dr. Mahathir during Abdullah’s prime ministership, Khairy has taken a lower profile. He has announced he will step down from his role as UMNO youth chief at the end of his second term. His rapier debating style, disarming charm and worldly networks make him a natural leader. Khairy is often touted as having potential for higher office, and could be a candidate to contest the vice-presidency at the next UMNO elections.