Despite Dr M’s attacks, analysts say BN far from vulnerable under Najib

Datuk Seri Najib Razak chats with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir at the former PM’s Aidilfitri open house in Seri Kembangan August 18, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Datuk Seri Najib Razak chats with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir at the former PM’s Aidilfitri open house in Seri Kembangan August 18, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s prediction of a Barisan Nasional (BN) defeat under Datuk Seri Najib Razak are far from certain, according to political analysts who said the prime minister was well-placed to see of this and other challenges.

Since rescinding support for Najib for failing to satisfy his curiosity over 1 Malaysia Development Bhd and the 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Dr Mahathir has stepped up his campaign to demand the prime minister’s resignation.

Other than a brief televised interview to explain some of the former prime minister’ queries, however, Najib has so far refrained from firing back at Dr Mahathir.

“He is doing the right thing to keep quiet. Why must he engage in petty squabbles when he has better things to do?” Universiti Putra Malaysia political analyst Professor Dr Jayum A. Jawan told Malay Mail Online when contacted recently.

“Why should he entertain the one or two voices outside? Yes, some are raised by important people, but their days are gone... it is not their moment,” Jayum said.

For Centre for Policy Initiatives director Dr Lim Teck Ghee, ignoring Dr Mahathir’s assault was not an option for Najib.

Although less sanguine about BN’s chances at the ballot box under Najib, the political analyst said the Umno president still has ample opportunity to address the former prime minister’s concerns.

“The election is still a long way off. For now, Najib has to fend off Dr Mahathir’s attacks, which he has been successfully doing so far as his own Umno and BN support is concerned,” he said when contacted.

Prior to Election 2008, Dr Mahathir waged a campaign of attrition against hand-picked successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, which ultimately proved successful when the latter stepped down as Umno president and prime minister to make way for Najib.

This time, however, BN and Umno leaders have rallied solidly behind Najib.

According to Ibrahim Suffian who heads independent polling firm Merdeka Center, Najib’s fortunes will depend on his ability to maintain this crucial support from allies amid Dr Mahathir’s growing hostility as well as dissatisfaction over unpopular policies such as the Goods and Services Tax.

Ibrahim’s Merdeka Center has also charted a steady decline in Najib’s approval rating, which fell to a low of 44 per cent in January due largely to the country’s stalling economy and anticipation over the consumption tax that came into effect on April 1.

“Failure to do so (maintaining support) would be reliving what happened to Pak Lah,” Ibrahim said, using Abdullah’s nickname.

Aiding Najib’s cause, ironically, is the fierce infighting within Pakatan Rakyat where open discord over PAS’s ambitions for hudud in Kelantan has left the federal opposition pact that denied BN the popular vote in Election 2013 all but destined for a breakup.

Hostilities between PAS and DAP were such that neither relented to a ceasefire despite two crucial by-elections in Permatang Pauh and Rompin.

“The (general) elections are still very far away, three years, an eternity in politics. Najib has to fend off these attacks and ensure that he overcomes it,” Ibrahim said.

“How well he and BN performs in the future elections depends on many factors, but if he survives this current bout of fighting, he could try to recoup his lost political capital.”