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Thursday, March 26, 2009

> Khairy wins UMNO youth chief

Khairy Jamaluddin has stepped up as Umno Youth chief after multiple recounts due to disputes in procedures which delayed the official results.

With this, the hopes of former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and the son of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir were dashed after months of fierce campaigning.

As tension mounted across the evening, rumours had spread that all three candidates were leading at one point or another.

However, the former deputy Youth chief edged it in the end, collecting 304 votes to Khir's 252. Behind them was Mukhriz who received 232 votes.

A source told The Malaysian Insider that polling agents had complained of being unable to examine the ballot papers properly due to the distance they were positioned from the vote counters.

Further recounts ensued with each one resulting in slim margins of victory.

As Mukhriz walked into the hall after 10pm, he was seen being consoled by supporters before a triumphant Khairy entered after 11pm to jubilant hugs and cheers.

Khir was nowhere to be seen as results were announced.

It keeps Khairy's political future bright despite talk that he was finished now that his father-in-law Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi will step down as president and Prime Minister in two days.

For Mukhriz, his father's shadow continues to loom large over the party.

Khairy's deputy will be Razali Ibrahim, said to be aligned with Mukhriz.

The tension became literally tangible as after the results were announced, supporters of Khairy and Mukhriz clashed.

The latter's group accused Khairy of bribery and cheating but police stepped in to break up the scuffle.

Later while winding up the Umno Youth assembly Khairy acknowledged that he did not receive a strong mandate from the delegates.

"I got 304 out of 793 votes; this is not a majority, but it was because of the three-cornered fight, therefore the most important thing for the Youth after the intense contest is to close ranks," he told delegates.

"To the Pemuda Berani, stand by me when we are fighting the opposition," said Khairy referring to Khir's campaign platform and he also urged Mukhriz's supporters who campaigned on the platform of change to join him in instituting reforms.

He also reiterated his stand on multiracialism, calling the Umno Youth members to fight not only for the Malays but also for all Malaysians.

Meanwhile, Mukhriz told reporters he was not discouraged by the defeat.

"This is not the first time I lost, I also lost the Kubang Pasu division election in 2004 so I will learn from this experience," said Mukhriz.

"I congratulate Khairy and hope Umno Youth will continue to be strong and not shy away from its causes," he added - The Malaysian Insider.