Najib’s ultimate battle in Malaysia’s corridors of power


World Future

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak made a bold move – perhaps one of the boldest since he took power in 2009 – with the authorities querying his once advocate, former PM of Malaysia Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Silencing Mahathir for good, which will depend on a series of events that will unfold in the course of the year, will be a solid victory for Najib.

It will give him a free reign to indulge in power without any cause for concern.

At the least, until his real weaknesses are exposed as in politics, nothing is final but the bowing out of power.

Mahathir is probably the last remaining anti-Najib mouthpiece in the country, while the collapse of the once powerful opposition group the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) consolidated the PM’s left flank.

What is left wavering, and seemingly weak, now is his right flank, where only stalwart Mahathir is still bickering about the scandalous 1MDB.

At the center of Najib’s battle for political survival is the epic RM2.6 billion donation controversy that has tarnished his image both locally and internationally, and which remains as a perceived weakness of the embattled PM.

This raised the question whether Najib is the man worthy to lead Malaysia, a country which has anchored its economy deep into the global supply chain, with billions in foreign money flocking to the country.

However, Najib has so far won the political battles within the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno), where he rules with an iron fist, shattering anyone who raises an eyebrow against him.

From former deputy Prime Minister Muhyuddin Yasin, to an Attorney General who seemed to be on a witch hunt, the courtyard is almost clear for Najib to move on.

The jailing of fiery opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the issues pitting the Party Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) against its peers in the opposition (on issues sensitive to the majority Malay-Muslim population) and removing Mahathir’s son Mukhriz from power in the volatile state of Kedah are some of Najib’s political victories.

But these are not sufficient.

Najib needs to catch the bigger fish: Mahathir.

If he succeeds in muzzling Mahathir, Najib will have nothing to fear to rule the country as the most powerful Prime Minister, but his own blunders.

The Swiss Attorney General’s bid to bring to justice the perpetrators of the US$4 billion money siphoning linked to the !MDB investigation in Switzerland, the Hong Kong, the FBI or the UK police and the Singapore police inquiries may all flop, in the sense it might not implicate Najib directly in the scandal.

Similarly, the reports in foreign newspapers, seen as a gross interference in Malaysia’s affairs (by a large number of Malays, if not a fair percentage of Malaysians) however legitimate, they are, will have little bearings on Malaysian politics.