KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — Despite being behind bars, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak reportedly still retains enough popularity to remain a political kingmaker.

Prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also has to maintain his alliance with Najib loyalists if he wishes to keep his seat, a senior ruling party official told media site Bloomberg under the condition of anonymity.

"We’ve learned in Malaysian political life that no one is finished. He will continue to remain prominent and he still has his supporters,” Bridget Welsh, Honourary Research Associate with the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute Malaysia, was quoted as saying.

The news report also said that Malaysia’s stability and status as South-east Asia’s third-largest economy will depend on how the political power struggle plays out before15th general election (GE15).


"The question now is how [Umno] treats the Najib episode and whether it continues to be disconnected from the aspirations of Malaysians.

"They need to show that they’ve learned from mistakes of the past and not let the party agenda be bogged down by controversial leaders,” program director and co-founder of Merdeka Center for Opinion Research Ibrahim Suffian told Bloomberg.

A second senior Umno official reportedly said winning the national election will not be easy and that forming a minority government would entail settling scores with Opposition groups.


He said Umno is still confident it can prevent Najib from becoming the focus of the campaign and that it is planning on contrasting its longevity against the dysfunction of Opposition, including the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan coalition in early 2020.

"[Najib’s imprisonment] could hurt Umno in a way with regards to the politics of garnering support from the ground.

"On the other hand, it gives the current prime minister, Ismail Sabri, a stronger hand as he’s not hounded by the court case of these individuals,” professor emeritus of Universiti Sains Malaysia Johan Saravanamuttu added.

On Wednesday, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the party will stand behind Najib in his other court hearings despite him failing his final bid to appeal the guilty conviction in the SRC International case.

Yesterday, two-time former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that Najib was likely to receive a royal pardon, but did not elaborate further.

Najib’s failure in his final appeal in the Federal Court to overturn the guilty conviction obtained from the High Court saw him serving his 12-year sentence with immediate effect on Tuesday. He was also fined RM210 million.

He had been found guilty of one count of abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust, and three counts of money laundering.