Najib’s pardon may cut both ways, say analysts

(The Star) – The attempt to get former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak a royal pardon could be a sword that cuts both ways, strengthening Umno’s hand while, at the same time, denting the reformist image of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, say analysts.

It could also lead to others with similar convictions asking why they, too, should not be eligible for a pardon.

Analysts have mixed views on the implications.

Constitutional law expert Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said Article 42 of the Federal Constitution considers all crimes pardonable.

“The power of pardon is explicitly conferred on the King, the Sultans and the Governors with respect to their territories. Article 42 elaborates on the composition of the Pardons Board.

“In the Federal Territories, the King presides over the Board, but in some circumstances, the Conference of Rulers or a Sultan nominated by the Conference presides. It depends on whether it is a free or full pardon,” said Shad Saleem.

He also said a royal pardon for Najib would not necessarily mean others should get the same treatment, as the King has sole discretion.

Other analysts pointed out that the bid for the pardon, if successful, might be a blow to Anwar’s anti-corruption campaign.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Dr Azmi Hassan said that “with Najib out of incarceration, Umno could be perceived as slowly creeping back towards stability”.

Still, he cautioned that it might be “a double-edged sword” for Anwar’s anti-corruption image.

Sunway University’s political scientist Prof Wong Chin Huat said that should Najib be pardoned, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi might expect the same should he be convicted for his ongoing graft cases.

“The message to the judges could be: ‘Why send them to jail if they will be pardoned later? Why make enemies with politicians who may make a comeback?’” asked Wong.

He, however, felt a pardon for Najib would hurt both Umno and Pakatan Harapan in terms of Malay votes.

“Najib’s sympathisers would still vote for Umno whether or not he gets pardoned. Malays angered by Najib’s corruption may turn to Perikatan Nasional or simply stay out of the upcoming state elections.

“A Najib pardon would be seen as a deal blessed by Anwar. Anwar will be politically damaged and can say goodbye to his reformist credential – comparable to Aung San Suu Kyi defending the Myanmar army’s ethnic cleansing on the Rohingyas.

“While Suu Kyi suffered only international repugnance, Anwar would see his political base fragmented. Pakatan’s political legitimacy was based on multiculturalism and the rejection of corruption,” he added.