KUALA LUMPUR: It will be entirely up to Khairy Jamaluddin to join Bersatu because the former health minister is no longer an Umno member, says Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“It is within his rights to go anywhere because he is no longer with Umno,” he said in a press conference after chairing the National Action Council on Cost of Living (Naccol) meeting at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday.
Asked if Umno will counter Bersatu’s offer to Khairy, Ahmad Zahid merely said there were certain strategies in place.
“But when I share them in public, it would no longer become a good strategy,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin offered a supreme council position to Khairy if he decided to join the party.
As part of Umno’s purge in January, Khairy was sacked along with former supreme council member Tan Sri Noh Omar.
Meanwhile, Sunway University political scientist Prof Dr Wong Chin Huat said if Khairy were to join Bersatu, he might attract present leaders, supporters and even former members who are not aligned with Ahmad Zahid’s present leadership.
“Khairy may even appeal to some fence-sitting Malay voters,” he added.
Prof Wong said Khairy could bring a younger, urban and sophisticated image to Perikatan.
“However, Khairy’s own image will be simultaneously tainted by Perikatan’s ethno-religious and populist positioning.
“When you wash a piece of cloth in water, the cloth gets cleaner but at the same time, the water gets dirtier,” he said.
He also cautioned that Khairy’s current liberal supporters might be replaced by conservative voters of Perikatan.
“This may be a bad deal for Khairy if his new supporters (in Perikatan) are suspicious of his liberal past and may ditch him in future when the tide changes.
“A liberal turncoat cannot hope to make a comeback,” he said.
Prof Wong cited the example of lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who started his political career with Umno in 2000, then left and joined various parties such as PKR and DAP between 2009 and 2020, only to rejoin Umno again last year.
“Khairy has a much brighter future than Zaid and surely, he is aware of the risks in changing his colours,” the professor added.
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan differed with Prof Wong, saying that Umno supporters aren’t likely to defect to Bersatu with Khairy.
According to him, this was because Khairy doesn’t have strong grassroots support in Umno.
“So to expect Khairy to bring some of his supporters in Umno to Bersatu, it’s going to be very minimum,” he said.
Azmi said it would be a better option for Khairy to join one of Pakatan Harapan’s component parties as most of his supporters were leaning towards Pakatan.
“But the problem is that Umno is still in the current unity government and it will be difficult for Khairy to join any of the Pakatan parties.”
He said it would be better if Khairy waited for a few more years as he could rejoin Umno again.
“Compared to Bersatu, Khairy is more suitable in Umno,” added Azmi.
Meanwhile, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political analyst Suffian Mansor said Khairy’s entry into Bersatu would not give much impact to Perikatan as the former health minister failed to win the Sungai Buloh seat in GE15.
He also said that Khairy could not give Perikatan the edge it needed to take Selangor in the upcoming state elections, which could possibly be held in July.
“Because Pakatan Harapan has been showing good report in Selangor,” he added.
Suffian also said it was not a wise move for Khairy to join Bersatu as it could alienate his current liberal supporters.
“He should be patient as there could be a good opportunity for him in the next general election,” he added.