KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Umno may not win future by-elections or the 15th general election just by distancing itself from former president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, political analysts have said.
According to the observers, the former ruling party has much more pressing issues that would drag its chances down rather than the disgraced former prime minister.
“Trying to distance from him could allow the party to look into strategies that can be used to keep their supporters from jumping to another party that is it,” said Sivamurugan Pandian, political analyst with Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Pacific Research Centre principal advisor Oh Ei Sun, however, said it did not matter if Umno associated itself with Najib or not.
“The only thing left for Umno to sell is rabid racism of the highest order,” he told Malay Mail.
“The important thing is to appear absolutely racially supremacist in order to retain its 40 per cent Malay support, or may be gain some more.”
Several Umno members have blamed former prime minister Najib for Barisan Nasional’s (BN) 14th general election defeat to Pakatan Harapan (PH).
Former second finance minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani also criticised Umno’s decision to get Najib to campaign in the recent Sungai Kandis by-election that it eventually lost. Umno will not be contesting the Seri Setia and Balakong by-elections, giving way to PAS and MCA respectively.
The most recent attack against Najib came from Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa, who recently described the former prime minister as a “baggage that Umno could no longer carry”.
Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has also waded into the matter, urging Najib not to take offence with criticism from party leaders uneasy with the latter’s continued prominence.
KUASA head Praba Ganesan said the consequences of Najib’s money-laundering charges could also determine Umno’s outcome.
“Depends if the charges are made against other party leaders. If the criminal investigations only involve Najib, then Umno’s bosses may get away with saying it was only one bad apple.
“So let’s see how that goes,” said the chief executive of the democracy outreach organisation.
Najib, 65, is facing five counts of criminal breach of trust and power abuse over RM42 million of funds belonging to 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) former subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.
For Najib to regain his party’s confidence, Sivamurugan said the Pekan MP can attempt to help the PH government persuade billionaire Low Taek Jho to return to Malaysia and assist in the investigation into state investment firm 1MDB.
“It is time for the former president to take leave and settle all issues including trying to persuade Jho Low to return because that might help him to convince others that he’s innocent,” he said, referring to Low.
Low is being sought here in Malaysia in connection with the 1MDB corruption scandal. He has also been implicated by the United States Justice Department’s kleptocracy lawsuit to recover assets allegedly bought using stolen 1MDB monies.
Putrajaya has since seized Low’s luxury yacht, the Equanimity, which the federal government believes was purchased using 1MDB monies.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently said that his administration has already started work into recovering Low’s private jet that is also believed to have been bought with money “stolen” from 1MDB.