- Advertisement -

Anwar could lose it all if he refuses to help with Najib's pardon, say analysts

They recall the fate of Anwar Ibrahim's predecessors, Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail Sabri Yaakob, after they refused to intervene in ongoing court cases.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Anwar Ibrahim speaks at his first press conference as prime minister in Sungai Long, Kajang, Nov 24, 2022.
Anwar Ibrahim speaks at his first press conference as prime minister in Sungai Long, Kajang, Nov 24, 2022.

Analysts say the stakes are rising in the game of political rewards, with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at risk of losing everything if the royal pardon for jailed former leader Najib Razak does not come through. 

Ahmad Atory Hussain of Universiti Sains Malaysia said rewards were a norm for allies and politicians who helped individuals rise to a position of power.  

He said the practice of handing out government positions, or positions at government-linked companies or missions carried little risk other than a general criticism over the waste of funds, favouritism or questionable credentials. 

"But these do not normally involve matters of integrity, or criminal cases," he added. 

"The risk comes when the reward involves court cases. That is the highest stage of all. The effect of this is so great that even leaders can be toppled." 

Anwar, who came to power on the back of support from Barisan Nasional (BN) and its lynchpin party Umno, recently acknowledged that he would be part of the Pardons Board tasked with deciding on a pardon for Najib. 

Najib was convicted in 2020 of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in relation to the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International funds. 

He began serving a 12-year jail term in August last year after losing his final appeal. 

Last month, the Federal Court dismissed his application for a review of his conviction and sentence, dashing his last hope of legal recourse in the case. 

Umno subsequently began spearheading an attempt to obtain a royal pardon, saying the "unfair" decision had led to "extreme grief and anxiety among the Umno grassroots members".

Anwar said there would be no conflict of interest despite his involvement in the process of considering a royal pardon, and that the award of honorifics and pardons was the prerogative of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. 

DAP secretary-general and transport minister Anthony Loke meanwhile said that the petition for Najib's pardon was not the government's stand and had never been discussed by the Cabinet. 

"The (royal pardon) petition is Umno's stance as a political party," he said on April 10. 

Atory however said that the pardon process could raise perceptions about Anwar, especially in light of Najib's agreement with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to back the PKR president for the top post, revealed by MalaysiaNow in October 2020. 

He said Anwar's predecessors, Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail Sabri Yaakob, had tried to avoid interfering in the court cases of both Najib and Zahid. 

"The result was, both prime ministers were toppled by Umno, whom they refused to help, through the withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin and the dissolution of Parliament for Ismail," he said. 

Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said anyone, including Najib, had the right to apply for a pardon.

He said the power of pardon lay with the Agong according to Article 42(1) and 42(2) of the Federal Constitution, while Anwar had no power to act in his personal capacity. 

"All recommendations are made through consensus," he added. 
But Atory said that if Anwar did the same as Muhyiddin and Ismail by refusing to interfere in court cases, Umno could be expected to retaliate by withdrawing its support for him as well. 

"This would lead to a domino effect where Anwar would have to resign as prime minister or dissolve Parliament," he said. 
If Parliament is dissolved, he said, the people would have to go to the polls once again, on top of the elections to be held in six states this year. 

"And if the Agong chooses a new prime minister, the likely candidate will be Zahid who is currently the deputy prime minister," he said. 

"But the public and analysts alike believe that Anwar would prefer to dissolve Parliament and take his chances at another election. 

"Who knows, Pakatan Harapan might pull off another victory like it did in 2018."