- Advertisement -

Can Najib retake the Malay vote for BN?

Analysts question the extent to which the former prime minister would be able to help if granted a royal pardon.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Former prime minister Najib Razak shakes hands with his supporters on the campaign trail ahead of the 14th general election in Pekan, Pahang, May 6, 2018. Photo: AFP
Former prime minister Najib Razak shakes hands with his supporters on the campaign trail ahead of the 14th general election in Pekan, Pahang, May 6, 2018. Photo: AFP

Analysts and political observers have played down the odds posited by some in Umno that former prime minister Najib Razak would be able to win back Malay support for the party and give the coalition government an edge in the state elections to come. 

Najib, who led the country for nearly a decade before his ouster at the 2018 polls, was credited with helping turn the tide for Barisan Nasional (BN) at the Johor and Melaka elections in 2022 and 2021. 

He began serving a 12-year jail sentence last August for the misappropriation of tens of millions in SRC International funds. 

He lost his final bid in court last month for a review of his case, conviction and sentence, sparking fresh efforts by Umno to get him a royal pardon. 

But analyst Kartini Aboo Talib said "only those in Umno" were "still confused" about the shift in Malay support witnessed at last year's general election.

"The majority of the Malays who now support Perikatan Nasional (PN) do so not because of Najib, but because they have rejected Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi," she said. 

Najib and Zahid, who was appointed as one of two deputy prime ministers in Anwar Ibrahim's Cabinet, are both part of the Umno court cluster, a reference to party leaders facing charges of corruption and abuse of power. 

Zahid was recently acquitted of 40 charges in connection with the foreign visa system but still faces a string of others linked to charity foundation Yayasan Akalbudi

While he retained his seat of Bagan Datuk at the Nov 19 polls, it was only with a majority of some 300 votes. 

The development was part of an overall shift in Malay support towards PN, including in areas traditionally held by BN, which won just 30 seats compared to PN's 74. 

BN's loss, its worst ever, was blamed by some on former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob who had dissolved Parliament after Najib was jailed. 

The federal government is currently made up of BN, PH and several other coalitions from Sabah and Sarawak. 

But questions about Malay support continue to dog the coalition government ahead of crucial elections to be held in six states this year. 

Analysts previously said that Anwar could lose the top office if he refused to help Umno's efforts to free Najib. 

Political analyst Azizi Safar said any release of the former Pekan MP by way of a royal pardon would only give PN the advantage. 

"Only Najib's supporters in Umno would be happy if he was given a royal pardon," he said. 

"If the Malays as a whole believed that his imprisonment was an act of tyranny, Umno would have won big at GE15." 

Azizi, a former executive secretary of Penang BN, also questioned Umno's claim that Najib had ensured victory for the party at the state polls and by-elections following GE14. 

"Umno-BN's victory then had more to do with public disappointment in the PH government," he said, referring to the administration which collapsed 22 months after the election.