But in retrospect, it is perhaps all the more impressive that he still manages to stay calm and maintain focus on his unconventional message of Setiakawan (Friendship and Unity) throughout this tough period that has seen his father-in-law announce retirement resulting in erstwhile allies abandoning him by the droves.
In spite of the tough hurdles ahead, his inclusive platform remains the most promising in terms of returning the youth vote to BN and UMNO. As evident in the interview, Khairy strongly believes that a systematic outreach to all sections of the youth is key to any reversal of fortunes come the 13th General Elections. With 5 million voters under the age of 40 dwarfing the 700 thousand Pemuda members, he is right to think so.
Khairy did not shy away from specifics either. His manifestation of outreach within the context of Pemuda took the form of suggesting a closed-door meeting with delegates days before the start of the Assembly proper. This he said, is to enable delegates to voice out concerns directly to the party leadership, as well as exchange ideas in the interest of party progression.
Frustratingly, Mukhriz’s and Khir’s visions have not been forthcoming. Khir especially, has articulated little by way of ideas and concrete measures for Pemuda should he emerge victorious in March. Beyond simply saying that there needs to be engagement with Pemuda grassroots – a sentiment as populist and void as that of national unity being important – Khir has failed to chart a coherent message on the path ahead.
Mukhriz has not fared much better. His expressed commitment to not assume a Cabinet position should he win the post of Youth Head again pander to populist sentiments within sections of the party – hardly addressing the fundamental flaws within UMNO and BN.
As such, Khairy’s vision emerges as the most appropriate for the context facing UMNO and BN today. Whatever his past mistakes, it is hardly the time for politics of vengeance. The next UMNO Youth Head has to be one able to reach across the aisle and express values that resonate with Malaysia’s voting youth, and not just a section of UMNO’s youth.