Former Premier accuses Najib’s allies of buying votes in October intraparty polls
Former Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad today appears to have fired the first volley of a widely anticipated attack on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, saying the premier’s allies in recent United Malays National Organization intraparty polls preserved their positions in the UMNO hierarchy by buying votes.
"We are told that they've eliminated corruption during the recent UMNO election, I am not convinced,” Mahathir told a conference at the country’s administrative capital of Putra Jaya. Although he didn’t mention Najib by name, he said: "I think there was a lot of money involved, going into the millions, and loads of people who should not be getting votes were getting votes because of the money they spent."
It’s uncertain how much clout the 88-year-old former prime minister still has within the party. He ruled as prime minister for 22 years until handing the position on to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as his anointed successor in 2003. However, the implications are that the party, Malaysia’s biggest, may face a period of instability as the factions slug it out.
The next showdown, if there is one, could occur when UMNO holds its annual general assembly on Dec. 2-7 although a source in the Mahathir wing of the party said: “It could be, but there isn’t going to be a big bang. Gradual fireworks.”
A recent poll named Mahathir the most popular figure in UMNO, with a 75 percent approval rating, although that didn’t translate into votes for his allies in the UMNO intraparty elections.
Najib emerged from the May 5 national elections appearing badly weakened after the Barisan Nasional lost the popular vote for the first time since 1969 although it preserved a diminished parliamentary majority thanks to gerrymandering. Mahathir and Daim Zainuddin, the former finance minister, blamed Najib for reaching out too much to the country’s Chinese and Indian minorities at the cost of votes from UMNO’s ethnic Malay base.
After the election, Mahathir damned Najib with faint praise in a speech in Tokyo, saying the prime minister would stay in office because there wasn’t anybody at the time to replace him. Bloggers aligned with Mahathir have been staging attacks on the prime minister since the May polls, with one describing him as a “bug on the windshield.”