The last few days have left Malaysia’s ‘problematic’ prime minister with few secrets over how he rates his chances in the coming election. Were he to play fair in a clean contest against the re-energised opposition, he plainly reckons he has no chance of winning.
There can be no other reason behind his ditching of the basic rule book and embarking on a series of breath-taking and blatant exercises in cheating. Malaysians have been left outraged, but enlighted also.
They have now realised that Najib is not just shameless, he is also desperate.
Sarawak Report need not list the violations, since they have been on everybody’s lips. No other PM facing an election has felt the need to stoop so low. However, they include railroading though a gerrymander that would enable him to win more seats with just 16% of the vote (as long as BN’s traditional supporters remain); suspending one of the main opposition parties the day after calling the election; banning the opposition coalition; banning the face of his main opponent from posters and publicity; changing polling day to the middle of the week (on the basis a low turnout is said to favour BN) and reducing the campaign period to an unprecedented and ridiculous 11 days, so that he can unleash a blitz of controlled propaganda and the usual handouts of stolen public money and then rush to the polls.
Of course, thanks to another new law, bulldozed through in the past few days, all of the above remarks can now be categorised as “Fake News”, along with any factual criticism of the government, subject to a six year jail term. That law comes into operation this very day, so let’s see who gets arrested and who decides what is “Fake” and what is not.
The logic of all this shameless behaviour on the part of those in the Putrajaya bunker, is that come their manufactured ‘victory’ off the back of this litany of abuses, history can be re-written – by themselves. There will be tearful victory parties planned, where the would-be election snatchers will congratulate themselves and thank a fictitious ‘majority’ of Malaysians for their ‘vote of confidence’.
Most crucially, Najib will declare himself ‘vindicated’ in the eyes of his people and before the world. He will crow that the ‘overwhelming support’ of the electorate has exonerated him and his wife and step-son of their obvious crimes and their gargantuan thefts of public money.
Malaysians, he will claim, have shown they don’t care a fig that the man with the key to all the public financies, who has been splashing mysterious cash like rainwater throughout the campaign, is a known super-thief and blatant liar. And if Malaysians allegedly don’t care what right do critics have to criticise him?
He will claim that he, together with his wife, have been given a status above the law to steal what ever they like, cover up any crime they want and generally to treat the country as if they owned it.
This is how he reckons his desperate gamble will pay out. Once he has validated himself through an election win, he will be able to set himself up to be untouchable. From then on it will become impossible to dislodge him and all his critics will join Anwar in jail – because, of course, he will find a way to prevent Anwar from ever getting out.
However, by showing himself to be so desperate, by adopting such extreme tactics and by abandoning all normal precedents to force through a ‘win’, Najib is also revealing to everyone around just how dangerous a prospect he represents. He is a man who needs to end the rule of law, just so that he can keep out of jail. And, as everyone can foresee, when a desperate criminal grabs the reins of power, the country faces serious peril.
It is this that makes his entire present strategy extremely risky, because it could still backfire and disgust even the most solid supporters of his party. Years of traditional loyalty to BN may simply melt away.
Whatever the stolen money he distributes, whatever the threats to public servants and whatever the obstacles to the opposition, ordinary people are beginning to recognise the danger of voting back Najib.
And they have an alternative that is palatable still. Mahathir may have been forced under another banner, but he can still fight this election. BN voters, during these unprecedented and unnerving times, may well choose to put their trust instead in the tried and tested former BN team that successfully managed the country without great scandal for many years. People driven by Najib from the party he now leads.
After all, who gets on a plane or ship where the crew has admitted there is a ‘problematic skipper’ if there is a known safe alternative?
This is why Najib’s ruthless, desperate and illegal attempts to snatch this election by any means may work against him further, by convincing even more people to return to a safe pair of hands and to ditch Malaysia’s Bonnie & Clyde duo once and for all.