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A bane now, but analysts say Najib’s pardon could turn boon for BN and Pakatan at crunch time

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s partial pardon could be advantageous eventually for the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan coalitions despite the backlash and unhappiness now, according to analysts.

They said Najib’s personal appeal with Malay voters could be an asset in the tussle with the rival Perikatan Nasional coalition for the community’s support in coming elections.

After prolonged speculation, the Federal Territories Pardons Board announced on Friday that Najib’s prison sentence will be reduced by half while his fine will be cut from RM210 million to RM50 million.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said this would not completely alienate PH supporters as Najib remained in prison for now, and would also bolster Umno with the prospects of its popular former president helping its campaign by the next general election.

“So, it’ll be a catalyst. Najib will be together with them for GE16. Boost of confidence for the Malay voters that ran away to support Parti Pribumi Bersatu or PAS. It’ll give them a catalyst for Umno to be influential in the government and national politics again,” he said.

On Thursday, the Federal Territories Pardons Board announced that Najib’s 12-year prison sentence will be reduced by half while his fine will be cut from RM210 million to RM50 million.

The decision meant Najib, who began serving his prison term in August 2022, would be released by 2028.

He is likely to be released even earlier as he would be eligible for parole on good behaviour after serving just two-thirds of the six years.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Najib and his “Bossku” persona could help counter PN’s so-called “Green Wave”, its surge in support with Malay-Muslim conservatives that nearly allowed it to take power in the last general election.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Najib and his ;’Bossku;’ persona could help counter PN’s so-called ;’Green Wave;’, its surge in support with Malay-Muslim conservatives that nearly allowed it to take power in the last general election. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Najib and his ;’Bossku;’ persona could help counter PN’s so-called ;’Green Wave;’, its surge in support with Malay-Muslim conservatives that nearly allowed it to take power in the last general election. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Najib and his ;’Bossku;’ persona could help counter PN’s so-called ;’Green Wave;’, its surge in support with Malay-Muslim conservatives that nearly allowed it to take power in the last general election. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

“I think it would actually enhance the pact. The Barisan Nasional mainstream has long yearned for Najib’s release. Many in PH have also gradually come to the conclusion that unleashing Najib to let him run wild with his Bossku campaign could perhaps hold off the Green Wave for a while,” he said.

However, Oh conceded that Najib’s pardon could itself be a lightning rod for PN attacks.

On the other hand, International Islamic University Malaysia political science assistant professor Syaza Shukri said the political fallout from Najib’s pardon would outweigh any political benefit it might generate in coming years.

She said it was likely to upset traditional PH voters to the point of wavering in their support for the coalition.

“There was a clear rejection of Najib in 2018 and of BN in 2022. To ignore the people’s voice will negatively impact both PH and BN,” she said.

PN would also likely capitalise on the pardon to portray itself as the only “clean” coalition in the country, Syaza added.

She also expressed doubt about the effectiveness of Najib’s “Bossku” appeal despite the social media phenomenon around it.

“To be honest, the ‘bossku’ support is minimal. Maybe Najib has a hold over the political class but his influence over the general public is really not that large. Honestly, the benefit to BN is very low. This is truly for the benefit of an individual,” she said.