Fret not Umno, Najib may make a glorious comeback

G. Vinod, Malaysiakini

As everyone understands by now, politics is the art of making the impossible possible.

For example, who could have thought the likes of DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim joining forces with former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the 2018 general election?

If one takes a time machine, travels back to the 1990s and suggests such a thing to Mahathir and Lim, the former would have laughed, while the latter would issue daily statements about how ludicrous the messenger was.

And yet, Mahathir, who was always accused of being the man behind all negativity plaguing the nation, got a second chance to helm Malaysia at the age of 92.

Back to the subject matter, while former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, aged 69, is now incarcerated in Kajang Prison, he can always walk out of his cell a free man upon receiving a pardon from Istana Negara.

Granted, Umno may not seek a pardon for Najib anytime soon given how dicey it can be for the party politically, for now. However, if BN does win the next general election with a comfortable majority, what is there to stop Umno from seeking a pardon for the Pekan MP?

To understand the matter, one must realise that Najib enjoys widespread support within Umno and also among many voters from rural and semi-rural areas.

The strange thing about the whole situation is that Najib, in his Bossku persona, is way more popular among his party members and supporters compared to when he was serving as prime minister.

Umno beholden to Najib

In fact, I dare say he enjoys better support within the nationalist party compared to Mahathir, who had upset the party way too often with his constant attacks against an institution he himself had led for 22 years.

And Najib’s popularity among the grassroots was proven when he got BN to win a two-thirds majority in Malacca and Johor state elections.

Of course, analysts have argued that the voter turnout in both states hardly touched 40 percent, which resulted in BN winning hands-down.

But if one looks at it from another perspective, BN supporters (and also Najib’s fans) turned up to make their votes count, while Pakatan Harapan’s supporters and fence-sitters did not show up.

Hence, we may call him whatever we want; kleptocrat, plundering idiot or even Mat Sakau but when it comes to Umno and his diehard supporters, Najib is still an asset to them and can bring in votes.

And in politics, having supporters who will show up for you matters the most. If you don’t believe me, ask former US president Donald Trump.

While Trump may have lost the last presidential race, he still holds massive support among the far-right groups in the US, so much so that most Republican party candidates seek his endorsement to increase their chances of winning elections.

So, perhaps Najib’s trip to the US in 2017 to meet Trump was not that much of a failure after all. He learnt from the New York-based businessperson cum reality star how to court undying support from their fanbase.

What’s next for Zahid?

Make no mistake about it, like Trump to his Republican party, Najib has also turned into a cult personality among Umno grassroots and supporters.

Hence, it would be “politically suicidal” for anyone within Umno to openly denounce the former premier, and Najib knows this all too well.

Therefore, if BN does win the next general election, don’t be surprised if Umno grassroots start agitating its top leaders to speed up Najib’s pardon process.

And even if Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi becomes prime minister then, it would be “politically suicidal” for him to ignore the calls given that he has positioned himself as Najib’s number one “cheerleader”.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the show post-GE15. I, for one, would like to see how Mahathir and his ilk react to Najib being released, given that the nonagenarian was instrumental in his ouster from power.

G VINOD is a member of Malaysiakini team.