Over the Cameron Highlands by-election, Najib 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 to the very formal and uptight image during his days in office, Najib is now seen as a cool and easy-going guy. Rosmah, who more often attracts negative attention than not, is not featured altogether.
The messaging and publicity efforts of the new PH government 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.
However, we must know why Najib is putting in so much effort, time and resources into this.
Firstly, he is hijacking UMNO and BN to ensure his own survival.
Secondly, he is going all out to instigate dissatisfaction towards the PH government, especially by spreading slander against DAP among the Malay voters. His ultimate goal is to generate tension and conflict among PH component parties, and destroying the coalition before the next election.
This is not the first time Najib is hijacking UMNO and BN for his own benefit.
Should Najib chose to step down when the 1MDB scandal was exposed in 2015, UMNO and BN 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 BN.
If I were a strategist for UMNO and BN today, my main objective would be to forgo Najib and Zahid Hamidi and introduce new leaders within the party who are free from scandals. The next 4 years should be used to re-establish the people’s confidence towards UMNO in view of the upcoming GE15. The appointment of Datuk Seri Mohamed Hassan as UMNO’s acting president can be seen as a move to revamp the party.
Having Mohd Hassan lead the party as a whole and Khairy Jamaluddin to lead in Parliament, UMNO will become a credible, effective Opposition to PH that is able to provide constructive criticism. This helps to pave way for the 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 Mohd 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 PH government will dilute Malay-Muslim rights
- Creating the false impression of discord in the Mahathir-Anwar relationship and instability of the PH government
Najib’s only deliberation is that he will get to escape jail time if the PH government is dissolved prematurely. In 2015, we have 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.