Najib’s ‘new image’, a boost for battered Umno

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Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak singing with buskers at a popular food truck spot in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, on February 16. – Facebook pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 – Over the Cameron Highlands by-election, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak rebranded his image with the #MaluApaBossku campaign and he became a social media sensation. The political impact of how the beleaguered ex-PM is transformed into a seemingly popular icon has become a concern for many.

His image makeover (probably done by well-paid experts) is a well-orchestrated effort to strike back. Compared with the very formal and uptight image during his days in office, Najib is now seen as a cool and easygoing guy. Rosmah Mansor, who attracts negative attention more often than not, is not featured altogether.

The messaging and publicity efforts of the new Pakatan Harapan government, therefore, require more strengthening. In comparison, Najib is using the free media to his own advantage. We must not take this rebranding effort by Najib lightly.

Najib hijacking Umno and BN

However, we must know why Najib is putting in so much effort, time and resources into this.

Firstly, he is hijacking Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) to ensure his own survival.

Secondly, he is going all out to instigate dissatisfaction towards the Pakatan Harapan government, especially by spreading slander against DAP among the Malay voters.

His ultimate goal is to generate tension and conflict among Pakatan Harapan component parties, and destroying the coalition before the next election.

This is not the first time Najib is hijacking Umno and Barisan Nasional for his own benefit.

Had Najib chosen to step down when the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal was exposed in 2015, Umno and Barisan Nasional would not have been defeated.

However, for self-protection, Najib decided to first jail Anwar Ibrahim, causing the then-opposition to lose a uniting figure. He also collaborated with PAS to split Pakatan Rakyat, and finally demonising DAP to generate fear among the Malays in order to secure votes for Umno and Barisan Nasional.

How Umno can regain the people’s confidence

If I were a strategist for Umno and BN today, my main objective would be to forgo Najib and former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and introduce new leaders within the party who are free from scandals.

The next four years should be used to re-establish the people’s confidence towards Umno in view of the next general election. The appointment of Mohamed Hassan as Umno’s acting president can be seen as a move to revamp the party.

Having Mohamed Hassan lead the party as a whole and Khairy Jamaluddin to lead in Parliament, Umno will become a credible, effective opposition to Pakatan Harapan that is able to provide constructive criticism. This helps to pave the way for a healthy development of a two-party system in Malaysian democracy.

Unfortunately, Najib decided to use the Cameron Highlands by-election campaign as a launchpad for his comeback, stripping away Mohamed Hassan’s opportunity to emerge as a national leader whereas Khairy is banished from the political limelight.

Najib’s strategies include:

– accusing Mahathir of being the puppet of DAP

– claiming that the Pakatan Harapan government will dilute Malay-Muslim rights

– creating the false impression of discord in the Mahathir-Anwar relationship and instability of the Pakatan Harapan government.

Najib’s only deliberation is that he will get to escape jail time if the Pakatan Harapan government is dissolved prematurely.

In 2015, we had all witnessed Najib’s game plan to protect his self-interest. After defeating him in the 2018 election, I doubt he can make a comeback with such superficial tactics.

Najib is nothing but a dose of morphine for the terminally ill Umno.

– Liew Chin Tong, Deputy Defence Minister