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Sunday, September 27, 2020

How long will Najib last?

Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin are now facing a dilemma. If they continue in their attempts to oust Najib and even if they succeed and Najib goes there is a danger that Zahid would take over as Prime Minister. And Zahid would never become their proxy and allow them to become the de facto Prime Minister. So what do they gain by ousting Najib?


Tunku Abdul Rahman was Prime Minister for 13 years from 1957 to 1970.

Tun Razak Hussein was Prime Minister for almost five-and-a-half years from 1970 to 1976.

Tun Hussein Onn was Prime Minister for five-and-a-half years from 1976 to 1981.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Prime Minister for 22 years from 1981 to 2003.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was Prime Minister for five-and-a-half years from 2003 to 2009.

Najib Tun Razak is so far Prime Minister for six years from 2009 until today.

All the above is, of course, well known to most Malaysians. The Tunku was in office for 13 years before he was ousted and Dr Mahathir was in office for 22 years before he retired and handed power to Tun Abdullah.

However, Dr Mahathir would also have been in office for just about five-and-a-half years as well had Team B been successful in ousting him. But Dr Mahathir managed to defeat Team B by forming a new party so that his enemies could be ousted from Umno, and that saved him.

Then ten years later another attempt was made to oust him and Dr Mahathir survived that one as well by detaining all those who were against him under the Internal Security Act. He then jailed the leader of the group, Anwar Ibrahim, under corruption and sodomy charges.

So Dr Mahathir survived two coups, once when he was five-and-a-half years in office and another ten years later after 16 years in office.

Najib also suffered a coup attempt after five-and-a-half years in office. But he, too, survived that coup and is still in office. There would probably be another coup attempt on him but most likely that will not happen just yet. The window for the first coup has closed so now Najib needs to ‘look forward’ to the next coup in maybe five to ten years from now.

And this seems to be the trend in Umno politics. Around five-and-a-half years Umno would oust or try to oust the Prime Minister. If he survives that then the next coup would come in another five to ten years later. And if he survives that second coup as well then he can retire on his own terms.

Of course, Tun Razak was not ousted but he died in office. But it was still after five-and-a-half years like for Tun Hussein and Tun Abdullah. That seems to be the benchmark, five-and-a-half years. And then either you die or they would try to oust you from office, like in the case of Dr Mahathir and Najib.

No doubt this is not an Umno tradition but it certainly seems to be the trend. In five-and-a-half years you will face the critical period of your career and if you survive that then you can stay another five to ten years after which you will face the second challenge.

I predict that Najib has survived the first critical period and he is going to remain Prime Minister until the next general election. However, after 2020 to about 2025 he may again face a challenge. The question is who will lead that second challenge because Dr Mahathir will no longer be around by then?

Some say that that second challenge would come from the Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. I would call that wishful thinking because Zahid is fiercely loyal to Najib. If not Najib would not have appointed him as his second-in-command.

In fact, Zahid’s position itself is not secure. He is only the Deputy Prime Minister but not yet the Umno Deputy President. So he would first have to secure the position of Umno Deputy President because if in the meantime anything happens to Najib there is no guarantee that Zahid would go up to become the Prime Minister. Umno might even opt for the Deputy President to take over as Prime Minister, which currently would mean Muhyiddin Yassin.

So Zahid needs Najib as much as Najib needs Zahid. It is an arrangement of mutual interest. And if Najib sits down with Zahid to chart the succession plan then there is no reason for Zahid to not make sure that Najib survives. Najib’s survival would mean Zahid’s survival as well. That is how it works in politics.

So Zahid’s first task is to take over as the Umno Deputy President. On his own he could probably do that because he has very strong grassroots support. But with Najib behind him his chances would be enhanced. Najib can support him to become the Umno Deputy President while Zahid can cover Najib’s back to make sure no one shoots him from behind.

Dr Mahathir knows that the window to oust Najib has closed. Soon after 2013 Dr Mahathir used the Malay-Chinese issue to attack Najib, the same issue he used against the Tunku. That failed. Then he brought in the issue of the Crooked Bridge and the HSR to Singapore, as he did with Tun Abdullah. And that, too, failed. Then he switched to the 1MDB issue. And that, too, failed. So there are really no new issues that Dr Mahathir can throw at Najib.

The problem with the 1MDB issue was that Dr Mahathir was ill informed. Muhyiddin fed Dr Mahathir with false information and that was why when he came out shooting he talked about RM42 billion disappearing into thin air. People are now beginning to call Dr Mahathir ‘M42’ for his folly of swallowing everything that he had been fed.

Muhyiddin the Si Kitol said that everything he knows about 1MDB was what he read in The Edge. So, even though Muhyiddin attended all the Cabinet meetings and even chaired one of them, his source of information is not from these meetings but from The Edge. What Muhyiddin did not reveal is that he and his people were the ones who fed The Edge with all the information.

In short, he and his people fed The Edge with information and then he used this information from The Edge to feed Dr Mahathir. Dr Mahathir should have at that time smelled a rat but surprisingly he did not. So Dr Mahathir was duped big time and started screaming about RM42 billion disappearing into thin air.

Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin are now facing a dilemma. If they continue in their attempts to oust Najib and even if they succeed and Najib goes there is a danger that Zahid would take over as Prime Minister. And Zahid would never become their proxy and allow them to become the de facto Prime Minister. So what do they gain by ousting Najib?

Well, the storm is now over. Najib can now focus on running the country for the next two years or so as the world faces a lot of uncertainties. Then in 2018 he would face the general election and Umno’s party election. But he has two-and-a-half years before he needs to worry about that. And by then Dr Mahathir (if he is still alive) and Muhyiddin would be spent forces.

Then Najib has to plan for 2020 and beyond, which is still too far into the future to know what is going to happen by then.

Raja Petra Kamarudin

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