Najib’s tarnished image revived in foreign media after Malacca success

THE influential Economist magazine did not waste the opportunity to remind the world that former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Najib Razak is a condemned criminal after his triumphant return to national politics following his successful campaign in the Malacca state polls.

Interestingly, the blame for this grand return of Najib is shed on Pakatan Harapan (PH) and its leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for condoning party hopping and joining Barisan Nasional (BN) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) in fielding frogs as candidates.

The magazine also reminds readers of Najib’s court debacle in the SRC International case that made the headlines around the world.

While Najib made it back to the mainstream international media, the Economist coverage is littered with how scandal-drenched he is and why the watershed moment in 2018 with Najib’s and Umno’s defeat at the hands of the PH alliance could mean nothing for the country.

According to The Economist, Malacca is a bellwether for southern peninsular Malaysia, the country’s political heartland and with a general election that may be called next year, not only might UMNO regain its old grip but, Najib could also make a mightier comeback.

Having appealed against his convictions for corruption means Najib is out on bail, and this has given him a chance to rebrand himself as the people’s champion and was omnipresent in the Malacca campaign.

“In 2016, under Mr Najib, Malaysia was second only to Russia in The Economist’s crony-capitalist index. During his tenure some US$4.5 bil was bilked from a state investment fund, 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd), while the PM’s own bank balance rose by nearly US$700 mil (an unrelated gift, he said),” writes The Economist.

For that matter, the portal labelled Najib as “Malaysia’s sleaziest ex-PM” and “Mr US$700 mil”.

It also criticised PH for its misrule from 2018 to the fatal February 2020 resignation of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as PM, saying the reformist coalition proved to be a giant disappointment rigged with bickering over power-sharing between its two lions, the nonagenarian Dr Mahathir and his protégé-turned-enemy-turned-frenemy, Anwar.

“As for Mr Anwar, with power eluding him, he has variously sought deals with some of Umno’s sleaziest elements; claimed to have a majority in Parliament when he probably did not; and, in September, struck a deal offering the Government support in return for a say in the budget and a promise not to call a snap election,” contended The Economist.

“Both sides promised not to poach members. Party-hopping “frogs” were behind PH’s fall in 2020.”

For PH, the final straw came in Malacca, “where it welcomed exactly the kind of frog-hopping he (Anwar) supposedly deplored, leading to the state government’s fall and a new election. PH paid the price.”

The Economist further observed that many of the PH supporters stayed away whereas Umno’s long-established machine got its voters to the polls.

It also quoted political analyst from the University of Tasmania, James Chin, who expects PH to be punished once again during the Sarawak state election on Dec 18.

According to Chin, Najib who is now a heavyweight fancies his chances of succeeding PM Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob who is not part of UMNO’s “mainstream” because his convictions “can much more readily be overturned under an Umno Government.” – Dec 5, 2021

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