This is why Mahathir can’t really undo Najib

By Cordoba.Ali

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Picture Credit: www.policyforum.net/

Prime Minister Najib Razak happened only after former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad forced a leadership change in Malaysia in 2009.

He did not come to power by his own charm, capacity or by the will of the members of the ruling party, Umno.

Without Mahathir pressing hard for the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to go, Najib would probably be Prime Minister after the 2013 general elections.

Or he could have been doomed by then with the allegations of the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu not going away after the court case.

But Abdullah eventually resigned after mounting pressure from Mahathir to see him out of office.

Mahathir cited the poor showing by the ruling UMNO coalition in the elections of 8 March 2008, and the way Abdullah was running the country as the reasons for his early demise as PM.

The 2008 results were appalling for the Umno, with the ruling party losing control of five of thirteen Malaysian state governments.

But many people forget that it was Abdullah who then identified Najib as his intended successor and when he left office, Abdullah imposed a sort of challenge on Najib.

He said the onus was on Najib to win party elections set for March 2009 before he could take over.

And that is where Najib started to shift the lines, moving the goal posts within Umno to go and grab the party leadership without contest.

If one reads the above story with a deep thinking mind, it will be clear that first of all, Najib was given a free wheel at the reigns of the Umno and the country’s leadership since 2009.

The Malaysian PM practically made himself into what he is today, that is the ultimate Malay political figure, while Mahathir had simply put his faith in the son of his situ, the father of Najib, Tun Abdul Razak.

And today, Najib is the most powerful PM Malaysia has ever had.

And this is how Malay politics goes down in trickle into the Malay-Bumiputra households in Malaysia.

He controls the party apparatus with such power that even Mahathir did not dream of, and he has absolute power in the corridors of power, to the extent that it is practically impossible to budge him on any subject.

With this in his hands, and with Najib shuffling the cards like an old fox, he attracts the Malay-Bumiputra support perhaps like no other PM before.

If PM Najib was made by his own forays within the party and the government after he was anointed as the future leader of the country, then it is not for Mahathir or any opposition leader to come and claim that he is illegitimate.

They can’t even come and claim that they ‘made’ him, because with the amount of scandals running amok in Malaysia’s political landscape – 1MDB for sure – no leader will dare come forward to claim Najib owes them reverence.

And that is what made Mahathir’s push to remove Najib Razak from power a weaker enterprise than when he strived to push Abdullah Badawi out.

Abdullah was anointed as PM by Mahathir, who handed him the Prime Ministership on a platter.

Mahathir had the legitimacy, in the eyes of the Malay-Muslims, to ask for the removal of the person he had chosen to replace him and it was accommodated by the party which at that time still owed the former stalwart the respect he deserved.

With Abdullah remaining silent on the 1MDB scandal and totally resigned to his fate as a retired PM, there is no legitimacy (in the eyes of the Party and its supporters but also in the eyes of the Malay public in general) for the party to remove Najib from its leadership.

But that does not mean Mahathir cannot defeat Najib.