KUALA LUMPUR,. Political analysts are at odds with one another over the possibility that Umno has abandoned its former president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The most recent example of the disarray the party finds itself in was the Utusan Malaysia article by Awang Selamat — a pseudonym shared by its editors — calling for Najib to apologise for misappropriating 1MDB funds.
“I think the problem and frustration of some of the party leaders now and also people within the inner circle including Utusan Malaysia, the (Umno) mouthpiece, is that Najib seems to be more vocal now compared to the other Umno leaders.
“And so he seems to be the one raising questions over certain things to Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders whereas this is the role that should be played by Zahid and the rest of the Opposition,” said UKM’s Associate Professor Faisal Hazis.
Faisal also pointed out that Najib seems to be in denial as he continues to defend “his track record and so on even on social media”.
He said the fact that the party demanded Najib’s resignation as president after the May 9 general election is proof Umno had already rejected him.
However, the reason the party did not lambast Najib immediately was because Umno and BN’s top guns were still being polite to the former premier while expecting him to lay low, attend to his multiple court cases and allow the new party leadership to take charge.
The lecturer believes the clash between Najib’s few supporters and the rest of the party is currently tearing the party apart.
“I think these vocal people who still support Najib will further split the party,” he said, citing the latest Twitter war between Khairy Jamaluddin and Lokman Adam. “This is not what Umno needs at the moment.”
“Najib should be a part of Umno’s history but that isn’t the case and this frustrates a lot of people in the party,” said Faisal, adding that Lokman’s insistent defence of Najib will be detrimental to his future in Umno.
Independent research firm Merdeka Center’s Ibrahim Suffian, on the other hand, does not believe Malaysia’s biggest Malay party has left its former boss out in the cold as they have not sacked Najib but are only “distancing” themselves from him.
“They can’t completely abandon him because many inside the party might still have some ties to him and affinity to him. But they certainly want to reduce the identification of the party with Najib and make sure that what Najib says and does is not tied to the party.
“Abandon means sacking him from the party and I’m not sure the current leadership has the guts to do that,” said Ibrahim.
Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (Asli) senior adviser Oh Ei Sun said he has not seen any signs that Umno has abandoned Najib.
He pointed out that in Parliament, the Pekan MP is still seated next to Opposition leader and current Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“Well, Zahid is also similarly prosecuted. I see them huddling in solidarity instead. I frankly still don’t see them abandoning him,” said Oh.