KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s political career will likely survive his latest legal defeat in the Federal Court as former rivals who would have pounced on the former prime minister’s disgrace were no longer likely to twist the knife, said analysts.

Yesterday, the Federal Court delivered a 4-1 decision to dismiss Najib’s application for it to review its August 2022 ruling that upheld his conviction for misappropriating RM42 million from SRC International.

Although this was effectively the end of legal options to fight the conviction, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Najib could still obtain a royal pardon for the conviction that earned him 12 years in prison and a RM210 million fine.

“The Bossku movement, it’s still there, it might have dissipated a little but it still has a sizeable support,” Oh said when contacted

“And the current coalition government comprising Pakatan Harapan (PH), Barisan Nasional (BN), especially Umno, if they want to fight the other side, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) side, especially PAS, they could use all the support they have.”

After he was first charged over 1MDB, Najib’s supporters came up with a “Malu apa bossku (What is there to be ashamed of, my boss?)” campaign that positioned him as being falsely accused in the global corruption scandal.

The success of the campaign made Najib appear politically invincible, not only allowing him to avoid being a political liability for allies but to even help their campaigns in the Sabah, Melaka, and Johor state elections.

Najib's supporters are pictured in front of the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya January 19, 2023. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Najib's supporters are pictured in front of the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya January 19, 2023. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Although the online support did not translate to crowds of supporters when Najib’s conviction was upheld, the popularity was responsible at least in part for Umno and Barisan Nasional’s resurgence up until the 14th general election last year.

While Umno and BN did poorly then, the former still won enough seats to ultimately decide the outcome by throwing its support behind Pakatan Harapan’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and allowing him to become the prime minister.

“Najib is still part of Umno, [the unity government] should not openly embrace him, of course, but they should not explicitly distance themselves from him as well,” Oh said, adding that the ex-PM’s support would be valuable in the contest against a rising Perikatan Nasional.

While a decision like the Federal Court delivered in Najib’s case should be fatal for most political careers, University of Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections sociopolitical analyst Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi believed the former has the tenacity to still come back.

Awang Azman told Malay Mail that the Umno ex-president also had a loyal support base and some public sympathy owing to his time as a prime minister.

When asked what would happen to the legacy of the kin of Najib, whose father was Malaysia’s second prime minister, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Awang Azman said Najib’s children would ensure this could carry on.

One son, Nazifuddin Najib, narrowly won as the Langkawi Umno division chief while his daughter, Nooryana Najwa Najib, won a seat last month on the Puteri Umno executive council

“But they will not be able to emulate their father’s political career climb, and it will be a long uphill battle,” he said, referring to Najib's children.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung said the political pedigree of Najib’s family meant the latter’s career would have atypical resilience.

“He was born and raised in a Malaysian political family, developing his political career from a young age, his legacy cannot be erased overnight.

“For now in the history of Malaysia, he is still the only prime minister's son who has become prime minister.

“As Khairy Jamaluddin said, ‘Bossku is still a force to be reckoned with’. I second that based on today Umno’s line-up,” Lee said, adding that Najib would likely still be consulted on significant decisions by Umno.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's daughter Nooryana Najwa arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court October 11, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's daughter Nooryana Najwa arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court October 11, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan said the dissenting judgment in the 4-1 Federal Court decision would likely fuel Najib’s supporters’ claim that he was not given a fair hearing.

This could be awkward for the parties in the national unity government that must take on the remaining threat of PN in the state elections of Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Selangor, and Terengganu that must be held this year.

In the 15th general election, PN appeared on the cusp of securing control of Parliament until Umno thwarted this at the last minute by backing Anwar.

“There is a distinct likelihood that in addition to the three states — Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah — which are likely to go to the green wave side, Negeri Sembilan and Selangor might be in jeopardy as well.

“The unity government could use all the help, including from the Bossku supporters,” Oh said.

Not all were as optimistic about Najib’s lasting clout, however, with assistant professor of Political Science at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Syaza Shukri saying this was now likely to be limited to the family stronghold of Pekan in Pahang.

“I think the influence of the family can be seen and felt here and there, especially in their home state.

“But overall I think Umno’s supporters now come from many people that may support it for various reasons,” she said.