KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Khairy Jamaluddin, the popular Umno leader who suffered a shock defeat to Pakatan Harapan (PH) in yesterday’s nerve-wracking general election, said he accepts the loss as a referendum against his performance despite trying his best to steer the country out of a devastating pandemic as the health minister.
“Elections are a basis for any functioning democracy but it is also something that tells the politician if they are good enough or otherwise. If people like you enough or not. Those are the rules and you have to accept it when people don’t think you’re good enough to represent them,” he wrote on his Instagram account.
“I think I tried my best. But I wasn’t good enough. A loss is a loss, no matter how close you came or how many people express disappointment at your loss,” he said in an Instagram post this morning.
At just 46, Khairy enjoys support from both sides of the political divide and is considered by many to be prime minister material even at such a young age.
His popularity had prompted pundits to make him the favourite to win the Sungai Buloh race despite the constituency’s reputation as a PH stronghold.
Yet he lost to a largely absent Ramanan who rode on a relatively weaker campaign. The former MIC-turned-PKR man won by 2,693 votes, some 22,000 fewer than what the PH coalition garnered in the 14th general election.
Some analysts have suggested that Khairy was the unfortunate casualty of a growing voter backlash that was aimed at his party more than the man himself. As news of his defeat became increasingly clear, the Umno man received an outpouring of support that cuts across partisan lines on social media.
“One and only leader I admired from BN. Thank you for your excellent leadership with KKM boss, routing for your senatorship,” said one Instagram user by the name @emcee_ruvela below Khairy’s post.
“Right candidate wrong party. Thank you for all you did kj! You’d be a great PM some day,” said another Instagram user, @mishhhaaa.
To woo Sungai Buloh’s voters, Khairy had ridden on a reform platform that pledged to cleanse Umno from the inside.
It is unclear if the high number of PH voters he courted in Sungai Buloh were the result of that pledge but speculation over his future has mounted, including rumours that he may defect.
But Khairy said he’s exhausted. Now free from any ministerial or MP duties, he said he would reflect on his loss before deciding the next course of action.
“Is this the end of the road? I’m quite certain it isn’t,” the Umno politician said.
“But I want to reflect on this before I think about what I do next. The truth is, I’m exhausted. I haven’t really had time to rest since I was asked to manage the pandemic. It’s been a tough two years for me steering the country out of Covid.”
Khairy was also of the view that “tremendous” uncertainty remains and that the country “needs stability and leadership more than ever.”
But for now, all he wants to do is enjoy the Fifa World Cup.
“I am looking forward to the World Cup on television,” he said.