Voters did not vote for Pakatan Harapan in 2018 but rather against then-prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The country’s fourth and seventh prime minister told Utusan Malaysia this when was asked if a unified Opposition would be able to repeat the shock result of the 14th general election.
Dr Mahathir said he was not alone in hating Najib and voters decided to end over six decades of Barisan Nasional rule because of this rather than any overt support for the former and the Pakatan Harapan coalition at the time.
However, he said this was no longer the case heading into the 15th general election (GE15)
“In GE15, Najib is no longer despised. There are now supporters who are willing to kiss his hand,” he was quoted as saying.
“There is talk now that he is not guilty even when the courts say he is. There are still those who say he is innocent.”
In 2018, Dr Mahathir led a motley coalition of Opposition parties to a stunning general election victory, riding on a wave of public anger against Najib’s administration due in part to the 1MDB global corruption scandal.
Najib was later charged in several cases related to 1MDB and convicted in one involving SRC International, a former unit of the state investment firm.
This conviction was upheld during his appeal to the Court of Appeal, during which the presiding judges labelled Najib’s conduct at the material time as a “national embarrassment”.
Yet since the months following the 2018 defeat, Najib has developed a Teflon-like persona, even leaning into the corruption allegations against him in a bewilderingly successful social media campaign based on the Malu apa, Bossku? phrase, meaning “What is there to be ashamed of, my boss?”
Not only has Najib somehow avoided being a political liability to his coalition, but the ex-PM even featured prominently in campaigns for the state elections in Sabah, Melaka, and Johor, the last two of which BN won without needing to form alliances.
Emboldened by these developments, Najib and Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi — who is also on trial for dozens of corruption charges — have increasingly pressured Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call a general election now, before one is due in September 2023. – MMO