Zairil Khir Johari

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Yang Berhormat Tuan
Zairil Khir Johari
Penang State Executive Councillor for Public Works, Utilities and Flood Mitigation
Assumed office
16 May 2018
Member of the Penang State Legislative Assembly
for Tanjong Bunga
Assumed office
10 May 2018
Preceded by Teh Yee Cheu
Majority 9,343
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Bukit Bendera, Penang
In office
6 May 2013 – 7 April 2018
Preceded by Liew Chin Tong
Succeeded by Wong Hon Wai
Majority 32,778
Assistant Publicity Secretary Democratic Action Party[1]
Assumed office
September 2013
President of Football Association of Penang
In office
January 2017 – October 2017
Preceded by Dato' Seri Nazir Ariff
Succeeded by Dato' Tahir Jalaluddin
Executive Director of Penang Institute
In office
March 2014 – December 2016
Preceded by Dato' Dr Woo Wing Thye
Succeeded by Dato' Dr Ooi Kee Beng
Personal details
Born Zairil Khir Johari
(1982-10-17) 17 October 1982 (age 35)
Citizenship Malaysian
Political party Democratic Action Party (Pakatan Harapan)
Spouse(s) Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud
Parents Khir Johari
Alma mater School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Multimedia University
Occupation Politician
CEO, Penang Institute

Zairil Khir Johari (born 17 October 1982) is a Malaysian politician and a member of the Democratic Action Party (DAP). He is the Penang State Executive Councillor for Public Works, Utilities and Flood Mitigation. He was elected as the State Assemblyman for Tanjong Bunga, Penang in the 2018 Penang State Election. Prior to that, he was the Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera, Penang from 2013 to 2018, during which he was also the DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology.[2] He is the son of Khir Johari, a former Cabinet minister.

Early life, education and career[edit]

Zairil attended the Multimedia University in Cyberjaya, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Information Systems Engineering.[citation needed] He then received a Master of Arts from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Upon his return to Malaysia, he started Chocolab, where he was the Chief Executive Officer.[3] In late 2010, he left the business to pursue politics full-time.

Political career[edit]

Entry into politics[edit]

In 2010, Zairil joined the DAP, a leading party in opposition to the UMNO-led national government. The choice — given that his father was a prominent UMNO politician and that he would be a rare Malay member of the DAP — attracted significant attention. He claimed that UMNO had changed for the worse since his father was a politician, and that "after more than 50 years of [UMNO] rule, the situation is such that people are being colonised, oppressed by our own people, we do not have any freedom."[4] He was appointed Political Secretary to DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng on 23 February 2011.[5]

At the DAP National Congress in December 2012, Zairil was elected to the Central Executive Committee (CEC) and appointed as the Assistant National Publicity Secretary. The election was re-run in 2013, after a tabulation error that had resulted in his exclusion. He was successful again the second time around.[6] In November 2017, Zairil was once again re-elected into the CEC and re-appointed as the Assistant National Publicity Secretary.[7]

DAP Penang[edit]

In 2013, Zairil was elected into the DAP Penang State Committee and subsequently appointed Vice-Chairman.[8] In the 2015 state party convention, he was reelected into the committee, placing third highest out of the fifteen elected members with a total vote of 490 out of 760 delegates. He was reappointed Vice-Chairman.[9]

Penang Institute[edit]

From 2012 to 2016, Zairil headed the Penang Institute, a public policy think tank to the State Government of Penang. Zairil has been in the forefront of co-ordinating most of its major activities in propagating the cause of Penang on the national and international arenas, and providing realistic solutions for the economic and social sustenance of the people of the Penang region[10] Under his leadership, the Institute organised the ASEAN Coalition for Clean Governance (ACCG).[11] The inaugural conference was held in June 2012, attracting participants from seven countries around the region.

In March 2014, Zairil was promoted to the post of Executive Director[12] and continued to hold this post until December 2016, when he stepped down to take over the reins of the Football Association of Penang. [13] He has since been appointed as a Senior Fellow of Penang Institute.

Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera[edit]

During the [Malaysian general election, 2013| 13th General Elections of Malaysia]], Zairil won the Bukit Bendera parliamentary seat polling 45,591 votes defeating Barisan National candidate with 32,778 majority. One of the highest majorities won during the elections. He is also one of the youngest candidates to win a Parliamentary seat during the elections.[14]

Member of the Penang State Assembly[edit]

In the 14th General Election in 2018, Zairil was fielded in the state constituency of Tanjong Bunga where he faced off against Barisan Nasional Penang Chairman Teng Chang Yeow. Considered one of the more challenging seats due to controversies involving the former DAP State Assemblyman for Tanjong Bunga who had quit the party, Zairil went on to beat Teng by a majority of 9,343, nearly doubling the previous majority. Following his defeat, Teng announced his retirement from politics.[15]

Penang State Executive Councillor[edit]

With Pakatan Harapan emerging victorious in the 14th General Election, former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was appointed the Malaysian Minister of Finance while DAP Penang Chairman Chow Kon Yeow took over the reins as Chief Minister of Penang. A new Penang State Cabinet was formed, with Zairil being appointed as the Penang State Executive Councillor for Public Works, Utilities and Flood Mitigation.[16]

Election results[edit]

Penang State Legislative Assembly: N22 Tanjong Bunga[17]
Year Votes Pct Opponent(s) Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
2018 Zairil Khir Johari (DAP) 13,245 75.38% Teng Chang Yeow (Gerakan) 3,902 22.2% 17,571 9,343 80.7%
Chua Cheong Wee (PRM) 122 0.6%
Lee Zheng Yong (MUP) 74 0.3%
Parliament of Malaysia: P048 Bukit Bendera, Penang[18][19][17]
Year Votes Pct Opponent(s) Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
2013 Zairil Khir Johari (DAP) 45,591 77.93% Teh Leong Meng (Gerakan) 12,813 21.90% 59,114 32,778 83.16%


Zairil was a columnist for the now-defunct news portal, The Malaysian Insider, from 2011 until its closure in 2016. He currently writes regularly for The Penang Monthly. In 2017, he published his first book, Finding Malaysia: Making Sense of an Eccentric Nation, a collection of his selected writings on identity politics, political Islam, federalism and education.[20] Finding Malaysia proved to be one of publisher Gerakbudaya's best-selling books of 2017.[21]

Zairil has also published book chapters in Policies and Politics in Malaysian Education: Education Reforms, Nationalism and Neoliberalism by Cynthia Joseph,[22] Dialog: Thoughts on Tunku’s Timeless Thinking by the think tank IDEAS,[23] and Young and Malay: Growing up in Multicultural Malaysia by Ooi Kee Beng and Wan Hamidi Hamid.[24]


  1. ^ "DAP national Leadership". 
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  4. ^ Shazwan Mustafa Kamal (25 January 2011). "Zairil Khir Johari: Why I joined DAP". The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
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  6. ^ Ng, Eileen (29 September 2013). "Zairil gets bigger majority as same set of DAP leaders elected in fresh CEC polls". The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
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  12. ^ [1]
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  17. ^ a b "Malaysia General Election". undiinfo Malaysian Election Data. Malaysiakini. Retrieved 4 February 2017.  Results only available from the 2004 election.
  18. ^ "KEPUTUSAN PILIHAN RAYA UMUM 13". Sistem Pengurusan Maklumat Pilihan Raya Umum (in Malay). Election Commission of Malaysia. Retrieved 24 March 2017. 
  19. ^ "Keputusan PRU13".  Results only available from the 2004 election.
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