Malaysia — After former Prime Minister Najib Razak was unseated in Malaysia’s last General Election in May 2018, a political comeback seemed highly unlikely. But after a pivotal win in November, this may no longer be the case.
Although Mr Najib—“Bossku” to adoring fans—has always retained a loyal following, the general perception in 2018 was that his name had been forever tainted by the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal along with the multiple charges of money laundering, abuse of power, and corruption he was slapped with in its wake.
2018 did not only see Mr Najib’s fall from grace, but his party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), broke the hold it had on power for the first time in six decades.
At that point, the former PM’s political career seemed all but dead in the water.
But that was then, as they say, and this is now, and the memory of the public may be astonishingly short, and their preferences fickle.
Mr Najib has seemed to rise from the ashes, driven, in part, by longing and nostalgia for pre-Covid days, according to the South China Morning Post.
UMNO’s big win in Malacca’s state elections last month has given rise to speculation that like former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who succeeded Mr Najib as for a second, though short-lived stint to lead the country in 2018, Mr Najib may just end up being Prime Minister once more.
SCMP quoted Mr Najib as telling writer Sophie Lemière, “[Malacca] was a game changer. [We are] still a good brand.”
His confidence may well be buoyed by calls over social media for him to be restored as Prime Minister after the Malacca victory.
On the economic front, Malaysia has not fared well, taking a severe blow from the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, since the last General Election, the country is now on its third Prime Minister, a situation that has worked in Mr Najib’s favour.
His big promise these days is to restore Malaysia’s economy and is portraying himself as someone generous with financial aid.
“[People] yearn for the Barisan Nasional days under my care … We were giving help across the spectrum,” he told SCMP.
However, his legal woes, including those connected the 1MDB scandal still hang over his head.
Last year, he was convicted by the High Court of seven counts of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust, thus becoming the first Prime Minister of Malaysia to be convicted of corruption. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million (S$68.05 million), which he appealed.
The next few days will be crucial for the former PM, as his appeal will be decided on Dec 8. He can appeal again and delay his jail sentence, if his conviction is upheld after his appeals come to an end, he will not be allowed to contest in elections or serve in Parliament.
And he still has to face the music with the 35 other charges he was slapped with. /TISG