JUNE 20, 2016
The party of Malaysia’s scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak has won two by-elections in a landslide, further strengthening his rule despite corruption allegations.
Malaysia’s Teflon-coated Prime Minister Najib Razak has claimed a key victory over political mentor-turned foe Mahathir Mohamad with landslide wins in two weekend by-elections.
Mr Najib has survived not only an international scandal over an alleged misappropriation of billions from his pet 1MDB state development fund, but also allegations he profited by as much as $US1 billion from the fund, which he denies.
Mr Najib’s Barison Nasional coalition held the west coast seats of Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar on Saturday with increased majorities. Though the victories were expected, the by-elections had been billed as a test of Mr Najib’s ability to lead the party, which has ruled Malaysia for 57 years, back into government at the general election.
On Saturday night, Mr Najib took aim at Dr Mahathir, who referred to the Prime Minister as the “Idi Amin of Malaysia”.
“He called me the Idi Amin of Malaysia. (Well) the Idi Amin of Malaysia is more popular,” Mr Najib told party loyalists.
In a later statement, he said his party had won the by-elections despite a campaign of “unprecedented politically motivated slander”.
“Tun Mahathir turned the elections into a referendum on my leadership,” he said. “He campaigned for his former enemies in the opposition, dishonourably smearing his own party with crude language and claiming to speak on behalf of the people. But his betrayal was motivated by personal interest, not the national interest.”
Malaysians “rejected Tun Mahathir’s lies” and his “unworkable coalition of former enemies”, he added.
Dr Mahathir, Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minster, quit the ruling United Malay National Organisation earlier this year over Mr Najib’s refusal to step aside over the 1MDB scandal, which is the subject of six international investigations.
He has since led a coalition of former political enemies from the Left and Centre in a bid to raise popular anger over the scandal ahead of the next general election, which must be held by 2018.
It doesn’t appear to be working. Last month, BN also secured a landslide win in Sarawak state elections, where Mr Nijab campaigned heavily and pledged billions in largesse.
The consecutive wins have raised speculation Mr Najib will call a snap poll to consolidate and capitalise on the apparently waning influence of the once all-powerful Dr Mahathir.
The coalition lost its two-third majority in the 2008 polls, and Mr Najib lost the popular vote in 2013 although his government retained power.
Dr Mahathir’s Save Malaysia coalition hopes to collect a million signatures for its Citizen’s Declaration seeking the intervention of the country’s sultans. But the alliance, which includes the main opposition People’s Justice Party (PKR) led by Dr Mahathir’s former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, is under increasing strain.
Mr Anwar was jailed towards the end of Dr Mahathir’s 22-year tenure as prime minister on what many believed were politically motivated charges of sodomy, and is now serving a second sodomy sentence.
While Mr Anwar had earlier given his blessing for the PKR to work with Dr Mahathir, he reportedly sent a private letter from jail last month warning a senior PKR leader not to get too close to the former strongman.