Najib – more Brown than Blair?

No time like tomorrow
Malaysian politics
The Economist
Another budget, more cash handouts and more dithering over an election date
Oct 6th 2012 | SINGAPORE | from the print edition

THE prime minister, Najib Razak, fancies himself as the Tony Blair of Malaysian politics. Like the former British prime minister, Mr Najib purports to be a progressive reformer, on a mission to “modernise” his country. The British-educated Mr Najib also likes to pay as much attention to the spin on his policies as to their substance. He even hires former Blair advisers to make sure he gets it right.

For all that, Mr Najib increasingly resembles the hapless Gordon Brown, Mr Blair’s nemesis and successor. For years Mr Brown agitated to push his rival aside. When at last he succeeded, Mr Brown blew it by missing the chance to call an early election while he was still relatively popular. Rather than winning his own mandate, Mr Brown, unelected and indecisive, watched his authority drain away until he was boxed into calling an election right at the end of his term—which he then lost.

Similarly, Mr Najib took over after an internal party coup in April 2009 against the then prime minister, Abdullah Badawi. Talk of an early election for Mr Najib to secure his own mandate first surfaced towards the end of 2010. He himself began to talk up his chances the following June. Then an election was expected towards the middle of this year. All along, Malaysia has been on an election footing, with the cautious Mr Najib ponderously cultivating the voters.

He has crafted new policies for Malaysia’s younger, unaligned citizens while giving away plenty of money to retain his party’s traditional supporters, especially among the ethnic-Malay (and Muslim) majority. In the budget in late September more cash handouts went to poorer households and a one-month salary bonus to all government workers. They usually vote for Mr Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

Would that there were more to show for all the shadow electioneering. Opinion polls conducted by the respected Merdeka Centre (the latest were for June) gave the prime minister an approval rating of 64%, down from the high point of his popularity in the middle of 2010. Still not bad, you might think, but the popularity of the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional (BN), is much lower than the prime minister’s own. So now Mr Najib’s options are diminishing fast. He is required to call an election by April at the latest. In the process he has acquired a reputation for dithering, and now has the regrettable distinction of being Malaysia’s second-longest-serving unelected prime minister, just behind his own father, the country’s second prime minister.

Given UMNO’s deep pockets and its practice of gerrymandering constituency boundaries, winning a simple majority has always looked relatively easy for Mr Najib. After all, the ruling coalition, made up of UMNO and several smaller parties, has achieved that in every election since independence in 1957. Yet Mr Najib’s real aim is to win back the two-thirds majority that the BN lost for the first time at the last election, in 2008. In so doing the BN lost its power, among other things, to tinker with the constitution. That failure led directly to the coup against Mr Badawi and the elevation of Mr Najib. The prime minister knows that if he fails to reverse the humiliation of 2008, a genuinely hard task, then he could go the same way as his predecessor. (His chief protection is that personally he remains more popular than the BN.)

Mr Najib has also been spooked by a series of political setbacks. His government mishandled a couple of huge rallies by a coalition of NGOs called Bersih (meaning “clean” in Malay) campaigning for fair elections. And poring perhaps too closely over the minutiae of local-election results, the BN has fretted over a fall in support among Chinese voters. They form the largest minority in the country’s complex ethnic mosaic.

The problem for Malaysia is that the rival parties have been at such a high pitch of combat-readiness for such a long time that the resulting partisanship is poisoning national politics. Pretty murky at the best of times, politics is becoming dirtier by the day. UMNO and its friends in the press and television have been relentless in their assaults on any organisation, such as Bersih, that is deemed to be sympathetic to the opposition. Another target has been an excellent independent website called Malaysiakini. All the old canards about these sorts of groups being in the pay of Zionists, America or George Soros, a foreign financier, have been trotted out. It is not clear whether such slanders still impress Malaysia’s voters, especially its Muslims. They are certainly a sign of desperation.

  1. #1 by Winston on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 11:54 am

    All the old canards about these sorts of groups being in the pay of Zionists, America or George Soros, a foreign financier, have been trotted out. It is not clear whether such slanders still impress Malaysia’s voters, especially its Muslims. They are certainly a sign of desperation. – End of quote

    No, instead of impressing Malaysian voters, all these dastardly acts by the federal government only serve to inflame them.
    The Malaysian electorate is chaffing to kick them out in the coming GE!!!!
    Just getting impatient for the day!

    PR is a boon for the country.
    While UMNO/BN is a bane for the country.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 12:32 pm

    Very similar. Both appointed….ever been elected and Gordon Brown waited last moment and go defeated.
    You can say….British are smart voters.
    Now come the chance for Malaysians to prove how smart they are.
    Around all the early breakfast customers I met…be it any race…all hate Najib and will vote for change.
    Many are commercial bosses and will not comment.
    It’s their wives that spoke for both.
    Wives said…they cannot appear to take sides…but feel very happy BERSIH walkers doing so much for country and people.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 12:43 pm

    Najib fancy himself like Tony Blair????
    Maybe he was laying his war games toys and start imagining things.
    Everything about Najib is so similar to Gordon Brown…especially brainwaves.

  4. #4 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 12:52 pm

    However…the similarity stops after comparing personalities and behaviors.
    Najib is a rouge…thief.
    Gordon is not. If he was….he will be in jail now.
    In Malaysia…all Umno B politicians are all above the laws…except once awhile…one or two small crooks are haul in for corruption charges and cases move slowly than the snail.
    Come arresting PR for corruptions or other matters..MACC works lighting fast.
    That’s the clear differences between Britain and Malaysia.

  5. #5 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 12:54 pm

    Love this…our PM goes to the mosque and swear all things….all one can touch him.
    That must also be the one and only in the world….including Muslim countries.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 12:56 pm

    You can say….Najib is telling all Malaysians..he is closet to the Almighty.
    We must never doubt him anything.
    He is so pure..the Almighty will listen to all his prayers….HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  7. #7 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 12:58 pm

    I still don’t get it why Najib popularity remain above UMNO’s or state leaders like Musa Aman and Taib. Truth is if Najib is going to be fired after the GE, there is no reason for Najib’s popularity to be higher – voters vote goes to the party, worst to his potential successors – none of which is better to us..

  8. #8 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:00 pm

    And Najib preaches morality to his Ministers.
    He is telling his Ministers…he need not practice what he preaches….just listen..he is PM.
    Gordon Brown talk like Najib…he will get shoes flung at him.
    Tony Blair got that message reading his bosom buddy Brush got a size 11 shoe flung at him.

  9. #9 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:04 pm

    You really can’t compare Najib with Mr Brown, Mr Bean, the Three Stooges or Homer Simpson. They are all up there in a class of their own.

    Najib is well down there like George of the Jungle. He thinks he’s some kind of saviour or hero but fails to see all the Brutuses surrounding him. Maybe he is just hapless. Watch out for the tree Najib.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:05 pm

    If you read newspapers and watch TVs shows…you will conclude Najib have so much support and love from Malaysians.
    If you step back and use your commonsense….you will find it totally not logical for him to delay the 13th GE till the last day of his appointment.
    Therefore….doubt no more.
    Najib is running scared.

  11. #11 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:11 pm

    Economist is the most popular magazine in the world.
    It is a must magazine for all business leaders.
    For that write ……who is obviously a foreigner…putting out the post…knowing so much and so accurately… shows the whole world is paying attention to Malaysian politics.

  12. #12 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:14 pm

    Jib’s popularity is high because he marketed himself like he is a celebrity. And unfortunately for jib, nobody takes celebrity seriously.

  13. #13 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:15 pm

    I guess sheriff singh is talking to me.
    He is right.
    Jolly good to see how smart you can be….at times.
    Najib is Brutus only to one.
    I typed his name…sure get moderated.
    So far so good.

  14. #14 by yhsiew on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:16 pm

    ///Mr Najib purports to be a progressive reformer, on a mission to “modernise” his country.///

    What progressive reformer? His illusory reforms are putting people off.

  15. #15 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:19 pm

    Najib can have a full house of school children in a play…if he dress up as an donkey…or monkey.
    All seats filled up…first come first serve…free admission.
    It’s school children he can bluff his way out.

  16. #16 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:20 pm

    Notice Najib’s lips turned pink when he is angry.

  17. #17 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:22 pm

    He is getting fatter and fatter….sign of a man..enjoying eating…the only pleasure left.
    Only sign of a very lonely man.

  18. #18 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:28 pm

    You do not hear Najib work day and night in office like Mahathir.
    You keep reading he travels around Malaysia…as if no other politicians or ministers can do get voters support his leadership.
    In fact…you never ever hear any minister saying….”Support Najib. He is the best”
    They are so busy.. defending so call rumors for years.
    Najib and his stooges dare not be in Parliament to defend the Budget…when Anwar present his rebuttal.
    Again…this is a world record..where the PM cum Finance Minster ….RUNNING SCARED!!!

  19. #19 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:30 pm

    Hmmm. There are people out there who think they are very smart but get moderated all the time and complain, complain, complain. What a loser.

  20. #20 by monsterball on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 1:34 pm

    sheriff signh is smarter than me.
    He never got moderated at all.
    Better move to another post.

  21. #21 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 3:11 pm

    440 likes and 14,390 dislikes on Google Hangout. Gordon Brown was NEVER that bad..

  22. #22 by raven77 on Sunday, 7 October 2012 - 10:57 pm

    The Prime Minister of Malaysia is a joke. Today he went to the wedding of the son of the Malacca CM who happens to be under investigation by the MACC..

    The trouble is this PM takes not only the Chinese and Indians for fools but takes even the educated Malays as bigger dungus. For this he will pay. BN will wiped out. The only question is by how much.

  23. #23 by rockdaboat on Sunday, 7 October 2012 - 11:08 pm

    Neither Brown or Blair but Blurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

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