Fresh from an official visit to Japan, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is hitting the road again - to rally support for his leadership as former premier Mahathir Mohamad continues his scathing attacks.
Datuk Seri Najib, who is Umno president, is expected in Kangar, the capital of Perlis, tomorrow. He will meet state Umno leaders and attend a prize-giving ceremony, The Star reported yesterday.
Early this month, Mr Najib visited Sabah, stronghold of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional; Perak; his home state of Pahang; and Johor, the stronghold of his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin.
Analysts say he is taking a leaf from the book of Tun Dr Mahathir, who travelled across the country to speak to the people when Umno was divided during his time as leader.
On Monday, Mr Najib took to his personal website for the second time in 10 days to refute allegations made by Dr Mahathir.
Mr Najib made clear that he was in charge because he still has the support of the people and would not step down just because of pressure from one individual.
Political analyst Shaharuddin Baharuddin pointed out the difference in the two men's situations.
Back in 1987, when Umno was in crisis, Dr Mahathir commanded more than 60 per cent of the popular vote, said Dr Shaharuddin. In contrast, Mr Najib received only 46.5 per cent of the popular vote in the 2013 election.
"Whether Najib's tour of the states can capture the people's hearts is yet to be seen," he added. "One must be careful not to place too much emphasis on the size of the turnout... It is usually orchestrated and people are paid to come and see."
Dr Shaharuddin also doubts whether Mr Najib's strategy of addressing Dr Mahathir through his personal website is significantly changing public perception.
"The people in general believe there is some truth to the accusations made by Dr Mahathir. Najib's denial is not strong enough to convince the people."
Tan Sri Muhyiddin's blunt criticism of the debt-laden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) only reinforced speculation that he would challenge Mr Najib for the leadership post.
Associate Professor Mohammad Agus Yusof said Malaysians do not want lip service but want to see pertinent issues such as 1MDB resolved.
"This issue will not end until the government can convince the people through its explanation and solution.
The Auditor-General's and Public Accounts Committee's (PAC) reports on 1MDB will be key."
The Auditor-General and the PAC, a bipartisan parliamentary committee, are conducting their own investigation into the troubled 1MDB, which has amassed debt of RM42 billion (S$15.6 billion) in just under six years. The Auditor-General is expected to table a report on its initial findings to the PAC next month.
The state investment agency is wholly owned by the Finance Ministry. Mr Najib is Finance Minister and also chairman of 1MDB's board of advisers.
Umno's Constitution allows for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to be called to vote on, for instance, a no-confidence motion against the party president - but there is no precedent.
An EGM can be held only if the president calls for one; if two- thirds of the Supreme Council ask in writing; or if the divisions agree to send a request in writing.
This means the only way a president can be removed is via a scheduled party election, or if he decides to step down himself.
This article was first published on May 29, 2015.
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