Thursday, May 30, 2013

Consensus Grows That Najib to Remain PM, President of Umno

Singapore's Straits Times has joined the growing consensus that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's combination of personal popularity, reform programmes and canny political manoeuvres have allowed him to solidify his position as President of Umno and Prime Minister. This will allow him to launch his national reconciliation programme and to redouble his transformation programmes from his first term.

The Straits Times is something of a latecomer to this conclusion, which most observers saw confirmed by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's endorsement of Najib in Tokyo last week. Shortly after the election, the paper suggested that Najib's time was up and speculated on his replacement.

Three weeks later, a great deal has changed. Najib's reform Cabinet has quieted both Umno's warlords and reformers. Viewing the landscape of the party, Tun Mahathir has signalled to the old guard that their own preferences are not the way forward for the party, making clear that there is no alternative to Najib.

The Singapore-based paper notes that Najib has managed to solidify his support in his Cabinet – the likeliest source of potential challenges. For example, Najib's creation of a super-ministry of Education to cover every level provides Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin the opportunity to be the most influential Education Minister, and arguably the most influential Deputy Prime Minister, in the country's history.

The Straits Times suggests that Dr M's acquiescence can be traced to Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir's elevation to Menteri Besar of Kedah. While this is a tempting conclusion, it ignores Tun Mahathir's historically single-minded devotion to Umno and BN. It is unlikely that Dr M has forsaken what he perceives as the best interest of his party merely for his son's political career.

All of this makes it more likely that Najib will be able to expand on his 1Malaysia concept, which envisions a Malaysia in which government assistance is given to this in need regardless of race, and Malaysians come together as a single people.

While it is early days, the signs are prevalent that Najib has shown both a workable vision as a statesman and a high level of political acumen as a party leader to nail down his position.

The early signs are good that Umno's membership have realised that the way forward is with Najib leading the party as reformer and Prime Minister.

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