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Sunday, February 28, 2016

How far will Najib go to fend off his enemies?



ANALYSIS Najib Abdul Razak has thus far been successful in staving off attempts to remove him as prime minister amid corruption allegations which he vehemently denies.
Attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali had cleared the premier of wrongdoing while police have clamped down on any efforts to remove Najib without going through a vote of confidence or elections.
All these were done after gripping episodes of investigators being arrested and transferred, dissenters removed from the government, the attorney-general removed and critics being purged from the party.
With these behind him, Najib continued his offensive this month, having Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of his arch-critic former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, removed as Kedah menteri besar, and most recently, getting Muhyiddin Yassin suspended as Umno deputy president.
Najib's government had even taken the unprecedented move of blocking news portal The Malaysian Insider, something that even Mahathir, who was often accused of being an authoritarian prime minister, commented would turn Malaysia into North Korea.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan concurred that Najib is in a strong position and will stay in office for as long as he wants to.
However, Najib's manoeuvring to consolidate his position has come at the expense of public support for his government.
Pollster Merdeka Center in October last year found the overall support for Najib's government was at an all time low of 23 percent, with Malay support, which is meant to be Umno core vote bank, at just 31 percent.
These statistics could be even worse now as Najib continues to flex his muscles, prompting Muhyiddin to warn about the emergence of a "new dictator".
Wan Saiful said dwindling support may spur Umno to finally abandon Najib for a better chance at winning the polls. This, however, will only encourage Najib to fight even harder to stay in power.
'Drastic measures'
"If he feels that he is weakened, he might resort to some harsh measures... He will do whatever he can to remain in power, and that is cause for concern on how he will do that," he told Malaysiakini.
With emergency-like powers on the horizon under the National Security Council Bill, there could be much cause for concern.
However, Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Huat believes that if Malaysians can truly unite and agree on a post-Najib future, desperate measures may not work out in the premier's favour.
"If there is a growing consensus, Najib may not get the backing of military, police and bureaucrats let alone the palace.
"Then, any desperate move by him such as a self-coup will expedite his downfall," Wong said when contacted.
He cited how loss of military support led to the ouster of former president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, in 1986.
Already there seems to be a shift towards such a consensus, after Muhyiddin conceded that Najib's removal must come with institutional reforms, aligning the Umno rebels' message with that of the opposition which was initially reluctant to work with them.
A platform for the Umno rebels and the opposition to hash things out has already been set at a March 27 anti-Najib gathering.
However, there is no guarantee that this won't be anything more than just talk. -Mkini

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