Najib Razak plays with Hudud and PAS for Political Survival

December 24, 2016

Najib Razak plays with Hudud and PAS for Political Survival

by Jayum Anak Jawan

Conflict has raged within and among Malaysia’s political parties this year over controversial legislation regarding Islamic law, but Jayum Anak Jawan argues it is all part of the Prime Minister’s political strategy to win the next election.

What do “fixed deposit” and “insurance” have in common? A highly-skilled investor who maximises profit and minimises possible losses. This might appropriately describe Malaysian Prime Minister Najib’s latest political move as the next general election draws nearer and which must be held by the middle of 2018.

Najib is the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) President and Chairman of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. His party is embroiled in a “possible” alliance with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) to push through amendments to a piece of legislation called Act 355 that seek to review fines and punishment as well as the enforcement power of the Islamic courts. Originally, the bill was to be introduced to parliament as a private member’s bill by PAS President Hadi but was subsequently submitted by the government, which will reportedly take over tabling it at a future sitting.

Image result for Najib and Hadi

This is not a smart move–playing the Islamic Fire with Zakir Zaik and Hadi Awang–Din Merican

Since the initial announcement of its introduction, the bill has sparked much debate, polarising Malaysians and political parties from all sides. What first appeared as a PAS initiative, has since been embraced by UMNO, putting many of the BN coalition parties that had previously made a strong stand against Act 355 in an awkward position.

Image result for Sarawak Adenan Satem

Under Adenan Satim, Sarawak will remain a  progressive multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-racial state. Pushing hudud  is a bad strategy for Mr. Najib–Din Merican

There are stark divisions among the BN coalition’s 13 component parties with some staunchly opposed to the bill, such as Chief Minister Adenan who reportedly ordered all Sarawak BN party members of parliament to vote against it, while others are yet to reveal their positions. The opposition parties, meanwhile, are not wholly united one way or the other on Act 355.

While Malaysia’s political parties are caught up in the controversy over the bill, the clear advantage goes to the master political strategist, Najib. He is letting all the various parties fight it out, confident of drawing them over to his side at the end of the political brawl.

And why not watch and wait? Najib is championing Islam, which is more than what UMNO has done in its lifetime and more than what PAS could possibly do alone. As far as Najib is concerned, he is already a winner in the political chess game he devised. He has created a situation in which support for him is all but guaranteed. If you are not supporting him, then your Malay-ness or Muslim-ness are brought into question. You support him; you are a good Muslim. You don’t support him; you are a bad Muslim because he is doing a good thing for Islam. Such is the conundrum facing his Malay friends in BN and his Malay foes in the opposition.

Image result for the red shirts in malaysia

Malay extremism combined with radical Islam ala Zakir Zaik is a double edged sword; only a political novice and desperado will fail to understand this. It is a dangerous game because it will drive Malaysia into very severe recession.–Din Merican

Najib has also created a dilemma for his coalition partners. When he adopted the Act 355 amendments as a government bill, Najib redefined the rules of engagement altogether. By making it a government bill, and with UMNO being the backbone of the BN ruling coalition, all members of the ruling party are obliged to support it. If any party is opposed to the bill, then that party’s position in the BN coalition becomes untenable. So, the position becomes simple: support the bill or leave the coalition.

But, there is also this issue to ponder: Can the Prime Minister introduce important legislation without first consulting his coalition partners? The cornerstone of the BN coalition has been consultation. In addition, can a private member’s bill simply be adopted by the government without first having a discussion about it in cabinet? These are questions that are easy to answer but not as easy to explain. Clearly, there is evidence to conclude that the cabinet was not aware of the decision to support the legislation prior to it being made, nor had it been party to its formulation.

Lastly, some have argued about the constitutionality of this bill. Is Islamic law an item enumerated in the State List? If so, for the bill to be moved at the federal legislative level, it must have the support of a state government, not just an individual lawmaker. And for that to happen, it must first have been moved in a state assembly to indicate the state’s support for the bill.

Prime Minister Najib–No Novice in Politics(?)

The Prime Minister is no novice in politics. So, why is he doing this? The answer has to be simple and clear. He is crafting his “insurance policy” against increasing uncertainty on the returns of his “fixed deposit”, namely the states of Sarawak and Sabah, which have on many occasions saved BN and UMNO, especially after the 2008 and 2013 general elections. The number of parliamentary seats won in both states on these two occasions gave BN the majority required to form the federal government. But the sense of ethnic and state nationalism that have recently reignited vigorously in both states could have caused the Prime Minister real concern over whether BN and UMNO can continue to rely on the “fixed deposit” to return to power in the forthcoming general election. Hence, courting PAS, which won about 20 parliamentary seats in 2013, is a politically strategic move. Najib’s support for Act 355 will endear him and UMNO to PAS and at the same time boost the latter’s popularity among its supporters in the Islamic heartland states such as Kelantan and Terengganu.

Furthermore, this strategy could sway Malay-Muslim voters in many of the PKR opposition party strongholds as well. In all likelihood, and based on the fact that not much change will come from Malay and Chinese voters and their voting patterns in 2018, having PAS retain the same number of the seats it won in 2013 and perhaps draws a few more elsewhere, would be enough to give UMNO the insurance it needs against the possibly volatile non-Malay, non-Muslim votes and seats in Sabah and Sarawak.

Image result for Mahathir

BN and UMNO, if they win the next parliamentary general election, will not be expected to win handsomely as they have done previously. Neither should they be expected to make any major seat gains compared to what they won in 2013. But the PAS insurance policy, from supporting Act 355, should be enough to ensure that BN and UMNO can at least, in the event of the political atmosphere become more unfavourable and tense, scrape through with a razor-thin margin to form the next federal government.

Jayum Anak Jawan is the current Tun Abdul Razak Chair and Visiting Professor of Political Science at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA. He is concurrently a senior professor of politics and government at Universiti Putra Malaysia. The opinion and analysis expressed do not represent the institutions he is affiliated with.

11 thoughts on “Najib Razak plays with Hudud and PAS for Political Survival

  1. CLF, Conrad, Veritas,

    It is going to be about the economy, Najib’s leadership and character and the competence of people around him. The Malays outside the UMNO circle are fed up with his wife and his ways.

    The Opposition now in shambles cannot win, but let us hope that UMNO-BN wins only narrowly to force him to step down. What do you think? Wishful thinking? –Din Merican

  2. 3 corner fights in Amanah and DAP seats. PKR and PPBM likely at worst see a few only 3 corners so PAS will not be called idiots. DAP will win most of its seat but most Amanah and PPBM seats and many PKRseats will go UMNO. It’s sure win. PAS will blame DAP since it did not contest most of PKR seats. It’s nonsense of course, but that is the power of hallucinating theocracy.

  3. Dear Jibby and Hadi,
    ‘The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer” – Ghandi

  4. Well.., i’ve already said that the BnN lapdog parties aren’t gonna to tolerate that PASUMNOb main politik, shiok piece of legislature. Neither will the East M’sian non-UMNOb blokes. Another crisis generated unnecessarily by Jibros. Self inflicted lunacy.

    If passed, it will see the walking out of MCA, Gerakan and possibly MIC ministers, leaving a rump PASUMNOb to main their own belakangs. If it fails, the lapdogs will crow ’til high heaven – leaving the Oppo disorientated and more punch drunk (if that were possible).

    The Economy? What’s that? The coffers are empty. Raided.

    Even the RM 50 mil budgeted for the Chinese Primary schools have somehow disappeared. The gomen clinics are short of prescription meds and lab tests have been postponed/cancelled due to lack of reagents. Hospitals are burning down. Many of the agencies from all ministries have been pokkai since mid-year, and are only able to hang on with the skin of their teeth to pay staff salaries. All activities and ‘grants’ whatever they were, were stopped or only partial disbursements made. Gomen contractors have downed tools cuz they haven’t been paid for months.

    Bank Negara’s recent SNAFU ruling that exporters retain their 75% of their earnings in RM have spooked investors with the E&E, rubber downstream manufacturers crying blue-murder. Besides, any foreign investor will think a zillion times before pouring their good money into bad rubbish. Even BAT, Guinness and other ‘Sin’ factories are closing down operations. The Property sector is dead in water.

    Meanwhile the KLSE has seen a running marathon of foreign money back to where the sun shines. Billions of RM have already exited, and besides the falling currency – perhaps even beyond the 1998-99 lows. GLC’s are pretending all is well, by disbursing ridiculous returns, like ASNB. The only question is how long will FGV last before being taken to the cleaners – especially after EPF exited? It’s all bad news, my friend.

    The only flurs who are spending (read consumer expenditure) as if there’s no tommorow, are the cocooned Malay civil servants. On credit, most times. That’s why Bank (and AhLong) profits remain robust. Domestic debt is deplorable.

    Yet we have another creepy Phallic Symbol Tower being built and ‘a half billion’ RM synthetic rain-forest being created for edification of the Few. A**** knows for what other purpose. The priorities in times of economic stress have been hijacked by the need for political one-up-manship.

    I think i have exhausted too much space. Just close down PMO and kick out dedak UMNOb, should the elections be held..
    CLF, we have to keep hammering these dumb blokes in the cabinet and a-licking civil servants who have themselves become political types.I know we can be very frustrated when we encounter them in our daily lives. But first we must throw out (and prosecute)their leader.–Din Merican

  5. As to the second portion of question, Pak Din – my answer will not be ‘pleasant’ for both sides of the political divide. Kick out Jibros and it wiull even be a bigger mess!

    There’s nobody of ability in the whole of UMNOb nor the Oppo that can take over the reins of PM long term – especially not the present DPM. Hishamuddin might be suitable, but he’s too lembek and poorly connected.

    I would suggest a compromise of a coalition with reconciliation of all political parties. Perhaps MY can lead it. Husni as Fin-Min – Tony Pua, Rafizi plus a East Malaysian as deputies. Zahid continue being the DPM, and some of the senior posts remain with UMNOb hacks. Education and Defense remain with them too – but deputies must be from the Oppo. The HM must be handed over to the Oppo, say Kit Siang. MITI remains with Tok Pa, but 2 outta 3 deputies from Oppo. No need for 2 ministers for Fin-Min and Miti. Transport remains with MCA, while other Chinapek headed ministries handed over to DAP/PKR.

    Just reduce the number of overlapping ministries, and kick out the dead-wood. Ya, i’m dreaming.., but saving the country comes first.

  6. I usually sit out the discussion on Malaysia. For I am no longer as familiar with the current affairs there as the most of you. But as someone from the outside looking in, I may provide a different perspective.

    The way I see it, UMNO’s greatest challenge today does not come from other races, though it still pronounces racist tone against the non-Malays who have been relegated to the sidelines and have unfortunately (rightly or wrongly) taken the back seat. Furthermore, after May 13, 1969 – the older generation of non-Malays have accepted UMNO’s hegemon.

    UMNO’s greatest challenge today comes from other Muslims from PAS, PKR and Bersatu, and therein lies the fight. Malays in PAS, PKR and Bersatu do not have the perceived illegitimacy to Tanah Melayu as non-Muslims.

    Malaysia is moving into the disenfranchised Muslims fighting the corrupt ruling Muslim elites of UMNO. That explains the Islamization of UMNO and all this hudud stuff. One of the ironies of UMNO in office is that it has set the terms of its own legitimacy, opening itself to challenge when it loses support among the Malay community.

    Malays comprise 50.4 percent of the population currently (although with the other indigenous population of East Malaysia included, this increases to 67.4 percent). If the Malay community is split, or in other words, loyal to opposition parties, then the legitimacy of the ruling party is questioned. UMNO’s greatest political challenge has come when it has lost ground in the Malay heartland of the country, namely the north and east (Kedah, Perak, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang). Securing Malay support is portrayed as the legitimate marker of the right to hold onto power by those who conceive of political power as primarily ethnicity-driven.

    And I wonder whose side the non-Malays would take? The non-Malays have become the “king makers.”

  7. Najib, a master political strategist, he is absolutely not. He is king of ill-gotten mammoth cash and he buys the loyalty of partymen and coalition partners with cash or with threat of finishing them of their political life with the immense power he
    weilds as PM.

    The closest to being a master strategist is Dr Mahathir (a longstanding PM, he stepped down on his own volition and not ousted or asked to resign) The others are just pretenders.

    Is Islam democratic, Is it compatible with democracy? Should hudud law, for national implementation, be left as the preserve of PAS and UMNO to define and mandate for all Muslims to follow? Hudud is harsh law. Shoun’t the Muslim public have a say? Will Hadi and Najib have the guts and gumption to conduct a referendum for the Muslim public to find out if they accept or reject the idea. If a two-third majority vote is to be set as a bench mark for implementation, I doubt Najib-Hadi combine can touch this marker.

    Why not put it to vote to find out? I think the duo knows that it is not going to be a roller-coaster victory. Even if it going to be a victory, the margin is going to be very embarassing for them.

  8. One argument put forard is that the proposed law would enhance punishments for criminal acts that come under Islamic jurisprudence. Common law says that if you are a party to a crime (e.g you are a look-out for a gang that robbed a bank) you are as culpable as the actual persons who committed the crime. The proposed Islamic law should co-opt this element of common law.

    If one co-habitates with a thief and witnesses thieving by the latter and does nothing or goes a step further to support the thief, does it not make that person equally culpable? So, how Hadi, will you be ready to face punishment, come hudud law?

  9. Quote:- “Hudud is harsh law”

    Who says?

    How is it possible that laws made in the Name of Allah the All Beneficial, the All
    Merciful be harsh?

    Don’t spout nonsense.

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