With Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dismissing the parliament and calling for the 15th General Election (GE15),
Malaysian political parties have begun to switch gears, be it deciding on their campaign direction, doing some housekeeping in their parties, and finalising their political candidates.
Competition for the 15th General Election
Two-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is now under the flag of Pejuang, will be defending his seat in Langkawi, but he might not be running as a Prime Minister candidate.
Former defence minister Ismail Sabri and UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamid are part of the United Malays National Organisation (UNMO), but they have different opinions regarding the direction that UMNO should take.
Ismail Sabri is aiming for the UMNO President seat (and by extension, the Prime Minister position), and he wants to remain in a coalition with Bersatu under the collective flag of Barisan Nasional (BN).
On the other hand, Zahid wants to separate from Bersatu and maintain his position as UMNO president, despite being burdened with his own graft-related charges.
Additionally, Zahid is a faithful supporter of Najib Razak, and he is trying to get a pardon for him.
While Ismail Sabri has not voiced his thoughts about Najib, it is important to remember that he stepped into the role of Prime Minister precisely because Zahid’s credibility was under fire due to corruption charges.
Will Najib Be Running?
The better question is: even if he could, how is Najib going to run his campaign from jail?
Livestream his speeches during visitors’ hour, or straight from his not-cushy jail cell?
In response to media enquiries, senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah has kept quiet about the possibility of his client running for the next general election.
Shafee merely implied that he might argue for Najib’s participation in GE15.
In accordance with Malaysian law, any MP will be disqualified from their post if they are convicted and sentenced to more than one year of prison or receives a fine of not less than RM2,000, unless they receive a royal pardon.
For his involvement in the 1MBD scandal, Najib was sentenced to 12 years in jail and a fine of RM210 million.
However, because Najib is still waiting for the Agong to either approve or disapprove his application for a royal pardon, he can hold onto his Pekan seat for now.
“I do not want to touch on the topic now as there are a number of interesting arguments and developments that I do not want to make public yet,” said Shafee, adding that the media will be informed if he takes any action.
Prisons director-general Datuk Nordin Muhammad has also given his two cents about the situation, stating that the former premier will not be allowed to leave the prison premises to campaign.
After all, Najib is still subject to the Prisons Act and its regulation like any other prisoner.
Malaysia may be fond of having special rights for Malays, but politicians who happen to be prisoners don’t get special privileges to skimp their imprisonment willy nilly.
That Pekan Seat
The Pekan seat has always been held by Najib’s family since 1959, when Malaya gained more autonomy from the British.
It was first held by Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein, the second Prime Minister of Malaysia. He held the Pekan parliamentary seat until his death in 1976.
Thus, Najib, only 23 then, was pushed into the spotlight and became the MP of Pekan the same year.
In spite of Barisan Nasional’s loss in the 2018 General Election and the allegations of corruption, Najib retained his Pekan seat easily, with a majority of more than 24,000 votes.
The only term where Najib was not the Pekan MP was from 1982 to 1986, where he was the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Pahang instead.
Najib may be jailed, but UMNO has not given up on him yet.
Case in point: Pekan UMNO division deputy chief Zamari Ramly said there are five potential candidates for the Pekan seat in Pahang, but even if they are successful in contesting the seat, they will be giving the seat back to Najib once he is pardoned.
Basically, the potential candidates are stand-ins for what sounds like an inevitable release from his sentence for Najib.
As for Najib’s children will not be contesting the seat, though they are perfectly eligible.
Najib’s eldest son, Datuk Mohd Nizar Najib (Najib the Second?) has been a potential candidate for years, groomed as a successor to his father in politics.
He is the incumbent youth chief of the UMNO division in Pekan.
Given the long legacy that Najib’s family has in Pekan, it appears that UMNO is confident that they have the Pekan seat in the bag, regardless of who they push forward, as long as they state that Pekan will remain as Najib’s state.
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