In Turkey, a window for Najib to supplant Anwar

(The Malaysian Insider) – With the Sodomy II trial now in full swing, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak landed in Istanbul yesterday to continue his efforts to undercut Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s international support.

Najib’s first official visit to Turkey includes a meeting with its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is known to be a close ally of Opposition Leader Anwar.

His large delegation of ministers, Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers and senior government officials is a clear sign that the Umno president hopes to take full advantage of this opportunity.

“Erdoğan doesn’t have to meet Najib but that he wants to means that even Anwar’s closest ally is worried about supporting him,” Umno’s Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed claimed.

Anwar has travelled extensively since a second round of sodomy allegations were levelled at him in 2008, claiming they are trumped up and politically motivated.

But Najib has sought to match his rival’s international profile since taking power in April 2009.

He has spent much of the two years since then courting the US, whose then-Vice-President Al Gore had publicly denounced Anwar’s first sodomy trial in 2000 as a “mockery.”

The fact that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not meet with the Permatang Pauh MP in a visit late last year will be seen as a sign that Najib’s efforts have not been in vain.

Next month, Najib will visit Australia where a year ago over 50 MPs had lodged a formal protest over the ongoing sodomy trial of the former deputy prime minister.

Political analyst Professor Agus Yusoff said that while Najib’s main objective will be to establish closer trade relationships that are crucial for him to boost Malaysia’s economy and support for BN, he must also counter Anwar’s narrative when meeting other heads of government.

“Both are taking their chances to meet world leaders and state their case but it is up to these leaders to decide who to support. I don’t think Najib will speak about the sodomy case specifically but he will try to convince them that Malaysia follows proper democratic procedure according to the laws and constitution of the country,” said the political scientist from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Although the prime minister has insisted that his conversations with leaders such as US President Barack Obama have not touched on Anwar’s trial, PKR has claimed otherwise.