Khairy hints at stepping down as Umno Youth head

Khairy hints at stepping down as Umno Youth head
Mr Khairy says it is time for "transition" in Umno Youth.

As delegates from the minor wings of Malaysia's ruling party met yesterday, one of the party's rising stars hinted that he may be eyeing a more senior position soon.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin hinted this could be his last time at the post, prompting speculation that he may contest a spot in the main wing in the next party election in three years.

Umno, Malaysia's biggest party with 3.4 million members, is divided into a youth wing for young men, a young women's wing, a women's wing and the main party for men over 40 years of age.

Current party president and Prime Minister Najib Razak and vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein are among previous Umno Youth leaders who moved up to become Supreme Council members or vice-president afterwards.

Mr Khairy, who is also the youth and sports minister, has been a rising star in Umno for several years at a time when many worry that Umno lacks fresh, young leaders to appeal to young voters.

He has helmed the youth chief position since 2008 and recently renewed his mandate in a five-way fight at Umno party elections in October.

"I will not be here forever... I am already 37," he told reporters at a media conference at the Putra World Trade Centre. "This is a bit sad for me, but this is the start of a transition of the next leadership of Umno Youth."

Under him, Umno Youth has gone from being a Malay pressure group known for its right-wing rhetoric to a centrist, service-oriented body, running job, housing and education fairs.

He said it was too early to name a successor but signalled that he wanted the youth wing to continue on its centrist path. "If it is only me that is progressive, Umno Youth's direction may not be the same after I leave."

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