Pro-Umno bloggers rebel against PM

Anisah Shukry, FMT

Calls for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to step down are gaining momentum in the pro-Umno blogosphere, signaling a concerted effort within the own party’s fold to remove the sixth prime minister from Seri Perdana.

Unflattering names such as “Najib kangkung” and “useless PM” are being liberally bandied about among notorious pro-Umno blogs such as OutSyed The Box; the Unspinners and Apanama for the past month, and they show no signs of abating.

“I hope Najib can see the writing. Just resign and go…. We are going to see him unravelling soon…Day by day the Kangkung fellow is going to be sliced and diced. By his own people,” prominent blogger Syed Ali Akbar wrote in a post last week.

Blogger Apanama wrote on Jan 8: “The Government /leadership of the day appears to be worse than the leadership or the lack of it during the dark ages of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi…

“Prime Minister Najib Tun Abdul Razak better take heed of what is happening on the ground. It’s my fear that if you fail to digest the sentiments/thoughts/feelings of strong/loyal Government/BN supporters on the ground, you will go down like how Pak lah did.”

These cyber attacks from within Umno’s rank and file are reminiscent of the pressure they placed on former Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi in 2007; these same pro-Umno bloggers credit Abdullah’s eventual resignation to their “conspiracy to bring him down”.

Political analysts do not deny that these bloggers’ influence the way netizens perceive their leaders, by painting Najib and, previously Badawi, as fools detached from reality.

But Professor Dr James Chin of Sunway Monash University said it was unlikely that Najib would go the way of Abdullah despite the virtual onslaught, as there were no possible candidate waiting in the shadows to replace him.

“What these bloggers write probably reflects the sentiments of some members in Umno, who are asking Najib to resign. But at the present moment, it looks very unlikely that it will push Najib off the edge.

“Because in Umno, no one seems suitable to take over the role of prime minister. (Deputy Prime Minister) Muhyiddin (Yassin) is not perceived as being wise enough to step up to the position,” the political analyst told FMT.

He pointed out that if Muhyiddin had been seen as a potential candidate, the bloggers would have launched the attack during the Umno election last year, where there was a legitimate chance of Muhyiddin toppling Najib.

What these pro-umno bloggers and their “paymasters” wanted, Chin said, was a revival of the Mahathir era and “strong-man” politics.

“These bloggers are hired by the pro-Mahathir camp in Umno who want a strong leader like Mahathir that can shut any dissenters by using the Internal Security Act.

“But they are living a dream. Under the current Umno structure, it is no longer possible for Umno to present a strong minister,” said Chin.

Meanwhile, Professor Agus Yusoff of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said the demand for Najib to step down by those bloggers would only gain traction if it was part of a wider call made by the vast society.

“The problem is that it is a soft intervention. It is just a drop in the ocean. It will only have an impact if that call was also made by the country’s leaders, by intellectuals, by the middle class, the civil service and the political elites,” said Agus.

“At this point, I see no affect on the political landscape,” he said.

He added that pro-Umno, anti-Najib bloggers could gain more influence if they tackled Najib’s alleged failures based on issues, rather than personal matters.

“But I don’t think that’s enough to sway the public opinion at large, unless the Umno bloggers work together with other NGOs in a concerted effort to bring Najib down,” said Agus.