'President' Najib has pitted himself directly against Anwar, despite the country practising a parliamentary and not a presidential system of government.
BUKIT JALIL: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak tonight stressed that the general election boiled down to choosing between him or Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, confirming rumours that the Barisan Nasional was banking solely on the “Najib factor” to sail to a victory in the coming polls.
This is despite the fact that Malaysia practises a parliamentary system, in which the prime minister is elected by party members, and not the rakyat.
“Now, in this 13th general election, the crux of the matter is whether the rakyat places any trust in Anwar, Hadi Awang [PAS president], or me as the leader of the government,” thundered Najib to a roaring crowd of BN supporters.
But the mention of the PAS leader’s name was clearly perfunctory, as Najib launched into a diatribe about Anwar without mentioning Hadi again in his speech.
“The opposition leader has lost many close friends… out of 34 PKR founding members, only two remain: his wife and the rather strange Tian Chua.
“If even the founding members have lost trust in their leader, surely the rakyat will not be duped into lending their support towards a leader with no track record, no credibility.”
In promoting himself, Najib then compared his political career directly to Anwar’s, and pointed to the latter’s infamous role as finance minister in the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
“Anwar always says that he has spent a long time in government, that he has felt the pain and suffering. But the question is not of how long he spent in government, but what he did.
“When the financial crisis happened, what did he do? He wanted to hand over the responsibility to others. If that’s the case, even you [the audience] can be finance minister. If any problem happens, leave it up to others,” said Najib mockingly.
“He said he has been in government for a long time, but so have I: 37 years. From thick, black hair to my hair situation now,” he joked, outlining the progression of his political career.
Najib said that unlike Anwar, he had not stabbed anyone in the back throughout his years in politics.
“I have served under three prime ministers and I was loyal to every prime minister. Was Anwar loyal? No.”
Najib ended his speech with a pitch for votes: if the rakyat felt they could trust him over Anwar, then they must vote for BN.
“Because I cannot do this alone, I need my team to contest, and it is this team that you must support,” he said.
Independent pollster Merdeka Centre reported that a survey among 1,021 voters in Peninsular Malaysia at the end of January revealed the prime minister’s approval rating was at 61%.
This was compared with 48% who were “happy with the government” and 45% who were “happy with Barisan Nasional”.
But even if the voters were to choose BN, it is unlikely Najib would remain prime minister should the coalition fail to regain the two-thirds majority it lost in the 2008 general election.