Can PM Najib stem the tide? 

In taking the risk of upsetting entrenched interests within BN parties only as D-Day approaches on May 5, Prime Minister Najib exposes how difficult and precarious his situation had always been. 

MOST analysts think the Malaysian general elections will be close. Although Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to retain a slight edge over his nemesis, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the social tide, even if significantly weaker, is still with the latter.

How then to find the decisive drop of water that will stem the tide for good?

Ever since he replaced Mr Abdullah Badawi as prime minister in April 2009, Mr Najib has seen it as his job to win back the rivers of voters who had turned against his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

But despite the long series of measures he undertook to transform the country’s slacking economic structure and low quality of governance, what seemed to happen was that only his personal popularity grew while the reputation of his party and his coalition slid further.

When institutional changes failed to give the dramatic upswing in support he sought, and legislative reforms were brushed aside as window dressing, he tried to win popularity for his administration by handing out money through an impressive array of channels.

To be sure, no one really knows how all these may influence voter affections, but the fact that the effect has not been obvious is reason enough for him to worry.

Prime Minister Najib delayed dissolving parliament for as long as he could, hoping for an inspired moment to strike. But in waiting too long, he lost the advantage he had of choosing a date that suited him best and that would catch the opposition napping.

However, by keeping the opposition guessing, he encouraged cracks to show in its ranks. This was an unexpected gain.

But now the die is cast.

Parliament is dissolved, the election date has been set, and Nomination Day is approaching.

And ahead of that day, Prime Minister Najib decided to announce his lists of candidates for both the state elections and for parliamentary seats.

Here is the most promising place where Prime Minister Najib can find the final drop he needs to be sure that he will win, and win enough to avert any challenge from within his own party after the national elections.

Rumours had been brewing for months that he would favour new young faces over tried and tired ones. These rumours turned out to be true. Many of those in the old days who would have been undisputed choices were dropped. In their place, new names appear.

But therein lies a big problem that is quite beyond the prime minister’s ability to solve.

Read more at: