Najib conviction strengthens Muhyiddin’s hand, says analyst

(FMT) – A political analyst says the conviction of Najib Razak on seven counts of corruption today is a plus point for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as it strengthens his political position.

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat said Muhyiddin could claim to be continuing the anti-corruption stance started by Pakatan Harapan (PH) “while giving PPBM a sort of differentiation from Umno”.

“While both are ideologically Malay nationalist, the former is also for good governance.

“Politically, it (Najib’s conviction) strengthens Muhyiddin’s hand,” he told FMT.

Wong said Najib’s conviction would also be cause for concern for the other five Umno MPs facing charges in court, including Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Aside from Zahid, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, former Tabung Haji chairman Azeez Abd Rahim, Ahmad Maslan and Bung Moktar Radin are undergoing court trials.

Wong said this could also divide Umno’s warlords, as some leaders who hold senior positions in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government and who are not implicated in similar cases may choose to move on from the old leadership.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Azmi Hassan said the decision would “weirdly” strengthen the PN administration, saying Umno would refrain from rocking the boat although today’s decision might incense grassroots supporters.

He also said the guilty verdict would likely further boost Najib’s popularity and his “Bossku” brand, adding that this could be used as a catalyst to strengthen the party.

“For those who support Najib, of course, it is disappointing. But as Najib put it, it’s still a long way to go since he has a number of options, beginning with the Court of Appeal. So it’s not over yet for Najib and his supporters.

“The guilty verdict will no doubt dent his political future, but it will also cause a surge in popularity if the factor of political persecution is taken into account,” he told FMT.

James Chin, of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute, said the decision would affect Umno without a doubt, seeing as the party was trying to clean up its act and rebrand itself.

He also said PN might try to claim credit for Najib’s conviction, but pointed out that these cases were initiated under the PH administration.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court today found Najib guilty of all seven counts of corruption in connection with RM42 million belonging to former 1MDB unit SRC International.

High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Najib is the first former prime minister to be tried and convicted on criminal charges for actions taken while in office.

He was charged in 2018 with three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), three of money laundering and one for abuse of power, soon after his Barisan Nasional government fell from federal power.