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Thursday, February 28, 2019

THE SECRET BEHIND NAJIB’S SUDDEN POPULARITY: ‘THE VANGUARDS OF CORRUPTION & PATRONAGE POLITICS IN UMNO IS ALIVE & KICKING’ – BRACE FOR WANNABE ‘BOSSKUs’ TO EMERGE AS TAINTED WARLORDS TRY TO FIND THEIR WAY BACK WITH HIS ‘FORMULA’

SEMENYIH— In several spots across town, Pakatan Harapan (PH) has erected giant billboards touting itself and the Selangor state government as: “Kita bukan pencuri, kita bukan pembohong, kita bukan perompak”.
The slogan in Malay asserts that PH politicians are not “thieves, liars and robbers”, an apparent dig at former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and other Umno leaders who have been charged and investigated over a litany of abuses during their administration.
For the by-election this Saturday, the ruling pact is putting a forward fresh-faced Muhamad Aiman Zainali, 30, who comes with no political baggage, against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Zakaria Hanafi, who at 58 is a former Umno division chief.
But it is uncertain whether voters here have taken PH’s assertion to their hearts, if the local reception towards Najib’s several visits since a fortnight ago is any indication.
A Pakatan Harapan campaign billboard is seen in Bandar Rinching, Semenyih February 27, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A Pakatan Harapan campaign billboard is seen in Bandar Rinching, Semenyih February 27, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
“But we know that most were outsiders. The crowd is fake,” Hulu Langat PH committee member Padmaanathan Doraisamy told Malay Mail.
In a visit to hypermarket Tesco two weeks ago, Najib was feted by shoppers who were raring for opportunities to take “selfies” with him. Mostly Malays, the shoppers are presumably part of the majority demographic that makes up roughly seven in 10 voters in the state seat.
This was despite the 39 charges that Najib is currently facing in court, in alleged offences that run from abuse of power and criminal breach of trust to money-laundering and tampering with audit reports — all linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
But the charges have taken a back seat in some voters’ minds as Najib has since adopted a more people-friendly image, bringing along the viral “Bossku” trend wherever he goes.
Despite local campaigner’s dismissal of Najib’s stunts, his popularity does seem to vex top PH leaders, with DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang urging voters earlier this week to vote for PH in order to nip Najib’s intended political comeback in the bud.
Is there room for more than one ‘bossku’?
T-shirts with Najib’s caricature riding a moped and the “Malu apa bossku?” rallying call are now part and parcel of BN’s campaign, despite Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa telling Malay Mail that Najib’s newfound fame does not automatically translate into popularity at the ballots.
Wherever there is a BN “ceramah” or rally each evening, one would be sure to find enterprising youths selling those t-shirts for as cheap as merely RM5 each. And at daytime, at least one stall can be seen erected near the BN campaign headquarters.
Met near the BN headquarters, teenage trader Mohd Awaluddin, 16, told Malay Mail he could make up to RM6,000 when there is a massive turnout to a BN ceramah.
Trader Mohd Awaluddin (centre) said he could make up to RM6,000 in t-shirt sales when there is a massive turnout to a BN ceramah.— Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Trader Mohd Awaluddin (centre) said he could make up to RM6,000 in t-shirt sales when there is a massive turnout to a BN ceramah.— Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
“People buy either to support him or just for fun. They buy motorcycle stickers as well, and ride around in a gang for fun. It’s all because Najib went viral,” said another trader nearby who called herself Zana Zee.
Seemingly riding on Najib’s coattails, the former Umno president has at times been accompanied by his entourage which included not only the incendiary Datuk Lokman Noor Adam and Datuk Seri Jamal Md Yunos, but also Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.
The latter two, of note, have in the past few months laid low after amid several scandals linked to them.
Muslim pilgrims’ fund Lembaga Tabung Haji had since late last year been mired in alleged financial misappropriation. It was previously under the purview of Jamil Khir as the minister in charge of religious affairs.
Meanwhile, Shahidan was charged with molesting an underaged girl in Perlis late last year. He had then snubbed an arrest warrant while performing the Haj, and has so far skipped court three times, claiming deteriorating health.
“These people saw Najib was having a good time, so why not join him? Birds of a feather stick together,” Padmaanathan commented.
The ‘secret’ behind Najib’s sudden popularity
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who recently handed over Umno presidential duties to Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan after facing 46 charges in court, has also appeared in Semenyih in a personal capacity.
Last week, he came clad in a white Baju Melayu and blue sarong, performing evening prayers with locals before joining them for supper at a humble “mamak” joint. Unlike Najib who was just pictured riding a moped, Zahid rode a rugged 745cc Honda X-ADV crossover scooter.
But locals think it is unlikely that Zahid, or other scandal-plagued Umno leaders, could replicate Najib’s surprise fame, as the latter “resonates” with some voters when he took PH to task for its alleged manifesto U-turns or failures.
“He’s got the aura,” said Zana, referring to the Pekan MP.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and BN Semenyih candidate Zakaria Hanafi are seen during a visit to Semenyih February 19, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and BN Semenyih candidate Zakaria Hanafi are seen during a visit to Semenyih February 19, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Local political analyst Ooi Kok Hin suggested that the bold reappearances of these Umno leaders may be down to the public’s lack of understanding of the charges and investigations against them, in no small part due to the media’s “normalisation and legitimisation” of them.
But pointing to the Cameron Highlands by-election won by BN, Ooi said Najib’s viral popularity paled in comparison to the effects of patronage politics that have been practised there as long as BN and the Pekan MP have been in power.
“Forty years of patronage politics, he has people indebted to him,” said the Monbusho scholar at Waseda University, Japan.
“No matter what they have been accused of, there will be people — select key people and the connected masses in their patronage network — whose success and fortune depend on their political fate.”
According to Ooi, the resurgence of these leaders may not only pose a danger to PH’s campaign, but to BN’s attempt at reforming itself under the new leadership of acting Umno president Mohamad — also known as Tok Mat.
“The old guards’ reluctance to give up influence and power is impeding Tok Mat’s leadership.
“Why would Umno’s warlords listen to Tok Mat and reluctantly reform when the vanguards of patronage politics is still kicking and acting like they are still in charge?” Ooi asked.
MALAY MAIL

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