Khairy Jamaluddin -- son-in-law of M'sia's outgoing PM Badawi -- is UMNO Youth's new leader.
Malaysia's ruling party delegates on Wednesday elected the prime minister's son-in-law as the head of their youth wing _ part of an expected reshuffle in the top leadership to boost the party's plunging popularity.
The race for the youth wing's chief _ a training ground for future leaders_ was seen as a proxy fight between Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his predecessor and most bitter critic, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose son was also contesting the post.
Mahathir accuses Abdullah of inefficiency and nepotism by promoting the Oxford-educated Khairy Jamaulddin, who was found guilty of vote-buying last week by the party's disciplinary committee. He was let off with a warning.
The 33-year-old won a three-way race for chief of the United Malays National Organization's youth wing.
Khairy, who is currently the youth wing's deputy chief, defeated former Mahathir's son, Mukhriz Mahathir, and one other candidate at the start of two-day elections for the party's office bearers.
On Thursday, the party will elect its deputy president, three vice presidents and 25 members of the decision-making supreme council. After the results were announced, Khairy who got 304 of 793 votes cast, hugged Mukhriz, who got 232 votes.
"I am touched by this mandate given to me. ... Some had said that the KJ era is over," said Khairy, referring to himself by his nickname.
Khairy's victory is a consolation for Abdullah, who will step down as party president on Thursday to make way for his deputy, Najib Razak, partly to accept blame for UMNO's disastrous show in the March 2008 general elections. Najib is contesting the post of party president unopposed.
Abdullah is also scheduled to hand over the prime minister's job to Najib next week.
UMNO, as the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition, has been in power since independence in 1957. But its popularity plummeted in the March 2008 elections when the Front failed to get a two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time in 40 years. It also ceded control of five of Malaysia's 13 states to the opposition.
On Tuesday, Najib called for radical reforms in the party to end deep-rooted corruption and patronage, warning that the party faces total rout in the next elections.
Much of voter anger was directed at UMNO, whose leaders are widely perceived as corrupt, power-hungry and inefficient. The party is accused of subverting the judiciary, the police force and the bureaucracy.
Najib's most radical proposal was to change the way the party elects its leaders. At present they are elected by some 2,600 delegates, while more than 3 million party members have no voice. This has led to a culture of patronage with delegates often taking bribes and other favors in return for their votes.
Yahoo News 26/03/2009