‘Free Najib’ narrative only to appease loyalists, says analyst

Analysts say voters are more likely to be influenced by racial and religious narratives carried by Perikatan Nasional in the state polls.

(FMT) – Umno leaders are only raising the issue of Najib Razak’s release in order to appease the former party president’s loyalists, says an analyst.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar said, however, the issue would have little impact on the upcoming state elections as voters are more influenced by the religious and racial narratives carried by Perikatan Nasional (PN).

“The issue of Najib’s release is aimed more at appeasing the ‘Bossku’ supporters within Umno and giving them hope that the current leadership has not forgotten about his efforts and sacrifices,” he told FMT.

Hisommudin said this narrative shows the party leadership’s desire to eliminate any internal division to “consolidate forces” in facing the upcoming polls in the six states, namely, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.

During the recent Umno general assembly, party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reaffirmed the party’s commitment to free Najib, who is serving his prison sentence after being found guilty of abuse of power, money laundering, and criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving SRC International.

The former Pekan MP started serving his 12-year prison sentence last August and efforts to seek a royal pardon began in April this year.

Meanwhile, Azmil Tayeb from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) said economic issues and the reform agenda would have a greater impact in attracting voter support compared with Najib’s release.

“Umno leaders would find it easier to persuade their supporters to collaborate with DAP than to convince Pakatan Harapan (PH) supporters of the reasons why Najib should be released,” he said.