Najib’s embarrassment and the leadership crisis


We are in desperate need of credible leaders, the kind who can show that they do not represent Najib’s damaged brand.

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

We’ve all probably had something embarrassing happen to us at one time or another. Typically, though, we eventually get over it and move on. But what happened to Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday will probably stick on for a long time, at least until the end of his tenure. What could be more embarrassing than declaring your “warrior” credentials one day and, on the very next day, chickening out of a highly anticipated public forum over a “security concern” – namely a minor incident outside the forum venue?

Najib is paying for his boast by becoming the butt of everyone’s jokes on social media, and he won’t be allowed to forget this particular gaffe.

We could go on about just how embarrassing the entire situation is, but there’s an important question we have to ask. What does that embarrassment mean for Muyhiddin Yassin and his cohorts? Muyhiddin and several others have publicly stated their opposition to the Prime Minister, or at least his pet projects. But talk is cheap. They have so far failed to do anything concrete to show that they subscribe to values that contrast with Najib’s values. They are thus in danger of being sucked down the same abyss that Najib’s reputation is going into. At the end of the day, the Prime Minister’s embarrassment is the embarrassment of his entire administration.

Unless they break out and stand on their own, Muhyiddin and his faction will see their fate tied to Najib’s.

In fact, the time has never been riper for them to strike out and strengthen their personal brands, and in a much less hilarious way than Najib has attempted to establish his so far. If they can show the people competency, frugality and efficiency, then they will have a better chance of getting at least tentative support when they take over from Najib. Otherwise, there may be outright hostility.

No one wants the dregs of Najib’s administration to take over and you can bet that Dr Mahathir Mohamad doesn’t want that either. A large proportion of the public has practically given the former PM the mandate to oust Najib, and that implies that he will be the kingmaker as well, choosing the most credible candidate by his standards to take over. While Mahathir’s choices have failed him before, we have to hope he’s learnt from his mistakes and select a candidate that can pick up the tattered pieces of BN’s reputation and rebuild the economy.