KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — With ex-Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin and former Umno information chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan sacked from the party, analysts said a new line of leaders such as Datuk Isham Jalil could capture the support of the newer generation of members.
Senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan said that of those remaining after the apparent purge in Umno last week, Isham was best poised to fill the vacuum.
“Isham is no doubt the next person, after KJ and Shahril Hamdan is out of the picture from Umno,” he said, noting that the coming party election could be a further opportunity for Isham to rise rapidly in the party.
“Isham seems to be the right person for Umno to portray that they have what the younger generation really need in terms of Khairy or Shahril aura in this case.”
While Isham is now poised to gain from the development, he said the Umno information chief has long since prepared to climb up the party ranks.
“Isham is already making a play, way before this before Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi appointed him as the information chief.
“He can take up the challenge to replace Khairy and Shahril, he is on par... So, I think Isham will fit in very nicely in the Umno power hierarchy,” he said.
Aside from Isham, he also saw Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki and Paya Besar MP Datuk Shahar Abdullah as other potential leaders who could blossom outside of Khairy’s shadow.
Umno Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki delivered a keynote speech at the Umno Youth Conference during the Umno's general assembly (PAU 2022) at World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur January 12, 2023. — Picture by Hari Anggara
According to University of Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) sociopolitical analyst Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi, the three as well as Melaka Umno Youth vice-chief Muhamad Akmal Saleh would be the rising leaders to watch.
The academic said that while these Umno leaders have not been very prominent previously, they still have strong potential to be the party’s next generation of leaders and shape the country’s politics.
“They are highly qualified, popular among the grassroots, have loyalty to the party, humble and always with the party during good and hard times.
“This also reflects that there are many generations of leaders, and Umno is not lacking of talents. These are just names that the media is not aware of and are too focused on certain personalities only,” he said.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid suggested that Isham was the strongest candidate to fill the gap left by Khairy and Shahril, but disagreed that Umno had good depth in terms of its leadership.
It was an open secret that Umno was still lacking young talent, he said.
“Everybody knows that. Developments since Umno's joining the unity government have done nothing to attract the country's younger generation to Umno.
“With Khairy out, the mantle seems to have fallen on Isham, who is the same age with Khairy.
“But never rule out a Khairy comeback. After all, he has time on his side,” said Ahmad Fauzi when contacted.
For the longer term, Ahmad Fauzi said Umno should ensure that talented state-level leaders were given space to developed and were not drowned out by patronage politics.
“Strangely in Umno, being in your 50’s is still considered young. These second echelon leaders should now come to the fore to save Umno from anachronism.
Perak Speaker Datuk Mohammad Zahir Abdul Khalid speaks during a press conference at Perak Secretariat Building in Ipoh December 19, 2022. — Picture by Farhan Najib
“Examples are Datuk Mohamad Zahir Abdul Khalid present speaker of the Perak state assembly and Datuk Latt Shariman the Kuala Kedah division chief,” he added.
Last Friday, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan announced the sacking of former Selangor Umno chief Tan Sri Noh Omar and Khairy, a former Umno Youth chief, due to alleged breaches of party discipline according to Umno's constitution.
Umno also imposed six-year suspensions on Shahril, former vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Maulizan Bujang and Datuk Seri Mohd Salim Sharif as party members.
Umno additionally sacked 42 other members for alleged offences such as being independent candidates, candidates of non-Barisan Nasional parties and helping rival parties in the 15th general election.
Khairy, Shahril and Noh have since insisted that their punishments did not follow party procedure.