‘Najib ruling will strengthen Umno’

Painting Najib as the victim would serve as a catalyst for party grassroots to close ranks and forge stronger unity. For many of them, Najib can do no wrong,

(NST) – The morale of Umno members, especially among Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s staunch supporters, is likely to be revitalised following his sentencing, as his supporters believe the former prime minister has been victimised, said a political analyst.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Professor Azmi Hassan said painting Najib as the victim would serve as a catalyst for party grassroots to close ranks and forge stronger unity.

“For many of them, Najib can do no wrong,” he said.

“Even after being jailed, he will garner strong support from Umno to strengthen the party.”

It would be unlikely that the Federal Court’s decision on Tuesday would compel Prime Minister and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call for the 15th General Election sooner, he added.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun said the court decision would put Umno on a new “soul-searching journey”.

He said Umno would likely find itself asking whether to distance itself from the convicted politician or to continue embracing him.

“Both are seen as having equal benefits. Detaching itself from Najib would see to the party being revitalised, at least for the moment.

“This would likely win over fence-sitters in the general election.

“Continuing to support Najib would strengthen the party with Najib’s supporters, who are quite considerable in numbers,” he said.

However, Oh said both options would put Umno on a tightrope.

On if the outcome of apex court ruling would compel Ismail Sabri to push for an early election, Oh responded in the negative.

“This verdict won’t do much in persuading Ismail Sabri to call an election soonest, but in any case, Umno’s pressure on him to do so would continue to mount,” he said.

Azmi said the verdict would instead compel Ismail Sabri to delay the election.

“It will not be very good for Ismail Sabri’s reputation if he calls an early election weeks after the verdict.

“It is strategically sound for the party to extend the dissolution of Parliament,” Azmi said.

He said Najib’s case was a clear indication of the country’s upholding the rule of law without fear or favour.

“This should be an eye-opener to all politicians. They are not above the law.”