Malaysia’s Najib: Jump or be Pushed

by John Berthelsen
Asia Sentinel
Wednesday, 08 May 2013

Election aftermath could soon claim its real loser, the current PM

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, having been instrumental in driving his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi from power in 2009 after a poor electoral performance, now may be poised to try to do the same thing to the current prime minister, Najib Tun Razak.

It may depend on whether Najib jumps or is pushed, however. The premier is said to be disillusioned and discouraged and may leave the premiership at the United Malays National Organization annual general meeting in October, handing over power to the current vice president Muhyiddin Yassin, sources say – if he lasts that long. Najib led the Barisan Nasional to its lowest vote total since independence at 46.66 percent of the popular vote to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition’s 50.1 percent, taking a diminished 133 seats in the parliament to Pakatan Rakyat’s 89 – amid allegations of voter irregularities that put the Barisan over the top.

“I am told that Najib will hand over to Muhyiddin in October,” a lawyer with close contacts to UMNO said. “The change may finally come but voluntarily between Najib and Muhyiddin. We’ll have to let it play it out some more.”

That could foreshadow months of instability inside the UMNO leadership as a weakened Najib hangs on to power in the face of a wing of the party that wants to double down on the policies that have led to diminished returns in the last two elections. Toppling him now for Muhyiddin could well lead to costly party rifts, as it did in 2009 with the Badawi faction of the party. A change would probably signal that UMNO will steer to the conservative right, counterintuitive to what the electorate appears to have been saying. It was UMNO moderates such as Khairy Jamaluddin and Shahrir Samad who profited in the election while Malay nationalists Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin were soundly defeated.

The Mahathir wing appears disdainful of Najib’s 1Malaysia strategy, which calls for an emphasis on ethnic harmony and national unity. If anything, the 87-year-old former prime minister, with his sponsorship of the Malay nationalist NGO Perkasa, appears to be reverting to his days as a Malay firebrand that got him kicked out of UMNO for several years before he was reinstated by Najib’s father, Tun Abdul Razak.

However, Mahathir, a source said, “campaigned hard for Najib and the Barisan Nasional. The Doc (Mahathir) let Najib do what he wanted pretty much. Najib led UMNO with his Economic Transformation Program, Government Transformation Program, etc. Now that the results weren’t good Najib has to take responsibility. Most importantly, I get the sense that Najib was completely devastated and doesn’t want the job anymore. Furthermore, Muhyiddin can fight fire with fire against DAP’s race campaign.”

It thus remains to be seen if Najib’s ETP and GTP programs, the cornerstone of his government policy, are at risk, emphasizing as they do competitive bidding instead of special privileges for ethnic Malays. Muhyiddin, although not as strident as other Malay nationalists, nonetheless is closer to Mahathir’s line of thinking than many are comfortable with.

Most observers say the Barisan, at Najib’s direction, veered between publicly conciliatory statements on race but used a de facto strategy that exacerbated what was already a growing divide between majority ethnic Malays, who make up 60.1 percent of the population, and the Chinese, who make up about 25 percent. The government basically abandoned the historic racial mix of ethnic Malay, Indian and Chinese parties that had ruled the country since independence for 56 years, attempting to use fear of Chinese dominance of the economy to drive rural ethnic Malays to the polls.

That may not be enough for the Mahathir wing. The source said that “We advised Najib against pandering to Chinese unreasonable requests. He bent over backwards to the Chinese where those resources could have gone to other rural or bumi constituencies. Now UMNO wants Najib to take responsibility.”

That’s certainly news to the Chinese. The Mahathir faction appears to be ignoring the fact that more ethnic Malays in Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Parti Islam se-Malaysia together voted with the ethnic Chinese for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition than voted for UMNO. It was votes from the non-Malay east Malaysian states that put UMNO over the top.

As in the electoral debacle of 2008, the hardliners in UMNO deny that the party needs reform, and failing to do so will probably drive more voters into the hands of the opposition. Najib during his term hasn’t been able to firmly steer UMNO into the directions he wanted to go. UMNO needs reform and there is no one in sight who can drive it. The biggest problem is that the party doesn’t want to reform itself. It is evident that Najib, under constant fire on corruption charges himself, over the last few years hasn’t been able to steer UMNO into the directions he wanted to go.

“The current elections showed the true meaning of the people’s power in putting the candidates they feel best in representing them in the parliament and despite of the systemic electoral fraud that happened, the people’s voice was still strong in sending a message,” said Lena Hendry, coordinator of the Malaysian Popular Communications Center for Human Rights, in a prepared release. “It is wrong the politicians from the current ruling government say that it was the Chinese who caused the tsunami as this is not true, as many seats also had winning or losses when the majority was of other communities.”

The country has “long passed the era where race and religion was the main weapon by politicians to get the support of people. People are focusing on bigger issues now which is plaguing the country such as corruption, abuse of power, transparency and many others and demanding answers from the leaders of the country. There is a new shift in national politics that redefines ethnic relations and go beyond it in Malaysia. The government must bear the responsibility to educate, reformulate and change society instead of reinforcing racial stereotype in politics. This must stop.”

Mahathir telegraphed his wing’s views in a press conference on May 7 to tell reporters he was shocked by the Barisan’s performance and laid the blame on “ungrateful” Chinese and “greedy” Malay voters.

“Most of the Chinese rejected the Malays’ hands of friendship … And that was what we call the ‘tsunami’,” Mahathir said, adding that “At the same time, we cannot deny Malays who have become greedy. They all want power without considering the means, if they needed to sell out their race they will sell it out.”

Although since the election Mahathir hasn’t publicly disclosed his rejection of Najib as party leader and premier, he has signaled his irritation by telling reporters that UMNO would have to decide whether Najib Razak should step down, questioning Najib’s strategists and saying their ideas may have contributed to BN’s poor performance.

  1. #1 by sotong on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 5:55 pm

    It is better for BN to lose than winning and losing popular support with possible election fraud…..this is not good for the country.

    The next 5 years their seats will be very hot!

  2. #2 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 5:56 pm

    Going ….

    There there cintanegara. Whatever happened to your hero?

  3. #3 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 6:00 pm

    Yeah sotong is right. The PM seat is definitely hot – burning hot – and extremely uncomfortable to sit on. By my reckoning, moo will get his rearside toasted.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 6:04 pm

    One sitting PM and two for ex-PMs campaigned for UMNO / BN and got this GE result. Najib landed with the hot potato in his hands and has to take the blame. Perhaps the result was due to Najib’s choice of candidates (Zul Noordin, Ibrahim Ali) as well was Mahathir’s unfortunate choice of words (he wanted ‘bury’ Lim Kit Siang etc). All have to take some blame.

    It is unfortunate that that the term ‘Chinese tsunami’ was used and is now the common excuse. One could have also used the term ‘Malay tsunami’ as UMNO also gained additional support leading to the current polarisation.

    It is now also rumoured that frogs have started to emerge just days after the polls which might give Najib his 2/3 majority and perhaps save his skin.

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 6:17 pm

    One sitting PM and two ex-PMs campaigned for UMNO / BN and got this GE result. Najib landed with the hot potato in his hands and has to take the blame. Perhaps the result was partly due to Najib’s poor choice of candidates (Zul Noordin maybe Ibrahim Ali) as well as Mahathir’s unfortunate choice of words (he wanted ‘bury’ Lim Kit Siang etc). All have to take some blame.

    It is unfortunate that the term ‘Chinese tsunami’ was used and is now the common excuse. One could have also used the term ‘Malay tsunami’ as UMNO also gained additional support and seats leading to the current perceived polarisation.

    It is now also rumoured that frogs have started to emerge just days after the polls which might give Najib his badly needed 2/3 majority and perhaps save his skin and prolong his tenure.

    Let’s wait and see how well Najib handle his predicament with most of his coalition partner leaders now gone.

  6. #6 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 8:07 pm

    Point of discussion: What IF Najib steps down and Muhiyiddin pursue a rignt-wing policy of completely relying on Malay voters only i.e., defacto Chinese subjugation but likely without saying so?

    It actually is not that crazy of an idea..

  7. #7 by Winston on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 8:12 pm

    UMNO/BN should just close shop.
    It’s not even wanted by the majority of the Malaysian electorate.

  8. #8 by Winston on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 8:28 pm

    Elections like the just concluded GE is just a facade.
    It’s not much better than having no GE!
    Shades of Myanmar?

  9. #9 by pulau_sibu on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 9:41 pm

    I am surprised that no BN wants to come to Pakatan so far. They may want to stay in BN and be the next to be fired by the people? If the MPs can see that they are on the way out of the main stream, they better consider to change themselves by moving to Pakatan (not to change the people from BN)

  10. #10 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 10:58 pm

    Push! Is there even a question about this?
    Muhyiddin will not wait and Najib will not leave without a fight.

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 11:20 pm

    ///It may depend on whether Najib jumps or is pushed///
    Its better to jump than to be pushed cos in the former case at least one could secure some concessions and assurances from the next in line. The position of presidency is (since the triumph of Mahathir over Ku Li’s challenge) has this threshold created by TDM – that to continue as president one must have at least 30 per cent of the nominations from all of the UMNO divisions comprising of maybe 2500 odd people led by 190 to 200 delegates? So one must have 58-60 divisional heads must sokong and nominate. If your rival or the ring master behind the scene could influence more of the delegates better than the incumbent who could not muster the threshold 30% nominations, then the incumbent better surrender and voluntarily give way to the next in line and secure from the latter some concessions graces or assurances of protection after one leaves. Of course the incumbent could argue that the party/coalition performance would be even “worse” if it were not him in charge and his ‘tactics’ but can he prove this? What moves those who give the nominations – logic merits or unquestioning loyalty, political patronage and I scratch your back and you mine? Who has greater influence over these delegates?

  12. #12 by ablastine on Thursday, 9 May 2013 - 11:30 pm

    If Najib has any brain at all he should take the opportunity now to sideline/quarantine the right wing extremists in UMNO, most of whom are in the mamak camp and bring up the moderates. Clearly the electorate have rejected these supremacists giving Najib a strong moral authority and excuse to eject these UMNO warlords and ask the Mamak to get lost. By blunting their charge he may still be able to save his neck but if he continues to toe the line set up by the vicious mamak the only outcome for him is dismissal.

  13. #13 by boh-liao on Friday, 10 May 2013 - 3:13 am

    AhCheatKor will b made 2 walk d plank soon by Mooooo n his gang with swords drawn (better than 2 b C4ed)
    Unless AhCheatKor can manage 2 use rakyat’s $$$ 2 bribe BIG BIG some PR MPs 2 crossover 2 d dark, evil, corrupt side 2 achieve 2/3 majority

  14. #14 by sheriff singh on Friday, 10 May 2013 - 9:45 am

    Is a lame duck strong ? Maybe it is slated to be a roast duck for lunch and dinner.

    Ah Jib Gor no longer has strong support as the results of the 13th GE shows. If he is smart enough, he should just find / negotiate a graceful exit with a ‘Tun’ to his name. Then go to Kazakhstan for a long delayed holiday / retirement.

    Let the Seladang sort out the poo / mess.

  15. #15 by rockdaboat on Friday, 10 May 2013 - 2:37 pm

    Soon he will be the roast duck of kuti’s son. That is why he came out with the stupid excuse to deflect attention.

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