I have heard since the middle last year (2014) that Malaysia will have the new prime minister before the year end, or the latest, by early 2015.
That was a year and a half ago. Today, mid December 2015, Najib appears to be stronger than ever before. Wrapping up the UMNO Annual General Meeting 2015 on Saturday afternoon a few days ago, he not only appeared confident, but managed to stage a dramatic closing, making many delegates and visitors wet in tears.
The picture was not a meek, uncomfortable man like he was a year ago, while delivering new year message, on the eve of January 1, 2015. In all likelihood, this upcoming new year message, to be delivered in two weeks time, will be made by the same person, but not the same man. Of course the person will still be Najib, and the man would also carry the same name. But it will not be the meek and uncomfortable man bearing similar name a year ago. It would be a man filled with confident and sure about himself.
Najib's resilience surprised everybody. The one most surprised is probably his former mentor, now his number one nemesis, Dr Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia for 22 years, and the one who picked Najib to be his successor in waiting. Successor in waiting because Mahathir did not give the seat straight to Najib, but to Abdullah Badawi, with the gentlemanly agreement, it was alleged by Mahathir himself, that Abdullah, affectionately called Pak Lah, would give the seat to Najib after a few years.
The transition from Pak Lah to Najib was not as smooth as Mahathir or Najib had wanted. All the while under Mahathir's shadow, Pak Lah suddenly became his own man after assuming the prime ministership. Mahathir was incensed that Pak Lah did not continue with the policy and programs he devised before stepping down. Instead, he reversed many of these and devised programs and policies of his own. So Mahathir used all his power and influence to bring Pak Lah down. There was bitter fight, but before long, Pak Lah did step down, leaving the mantle of leadership to Mahathir chosen's successor, Najib.
To begin with, Najib was the one Mahathir intended to be his successor, after his falling out with Anwar, the then prime minister in waiting, but is now residing in jail for his alleged sodomy excursion. And Mahathir did publicly praise Najib during the first year of his prime ministership for his competence, as opposed to Pak Lah's incompetence. Yet it was not long before the two fell out with one another. The reasons had to do with the National Coalition's worst performance in the General Election, held in 2013, along with numerous alleged scandals, especially 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion "donation," plus the first lady alleged wasteful expenses using state money.
Like what he did to Pak Lah, Mahathir did the same to Najib. He demanded Najib to resign. When Najib refused, Mahathir publicly attacked Najib. With the kind of scandals Najib are implicated, and knowing the kind of man Mahathir is, many predicted that Najib won't last before the year end. That was last year.
Any observer could see that Najib was threading the worst period of his political life. He appeared extremely uncomfortable giving speeches, no matter how hard he tried to keep his cool. With his "soft" disposition, many thought that he would fall as easily as his predecessor.
But one and a half year later, it is his attacker, Dr. Mahathir, who appears to be on the losing side. The story is still being written, but if the current trend continues, then this will be the first time Mahathir fails to bring down the PM of the day. Already 90 years old, this will be his last as well.
Of course the only apparent PM he brought down was Pak Lah, his successor, but the fall of the first PM of Malaysia, Tunku, had to do, to some extent at least, with his Open Letter and his book the Malay Dilemma, along with his many other speeches and criticisms against the Father of Malaysia. Mahathir was thrown out of UMNO for his attack on Tunku, but Tunku's political career did not last that long either after that.
Mahathir's predecessor, Hussein, resigned on health reason, but many know that the real reason was due to the "overwhelming presence" of his deputy. Mahathir did not oust him, of course, but health reason could not have been the only factor. The only PM that escaped Mahathir's involvement in the termination of his career was Abdul Razak, the father of Najib. He died prematurely while still in office. And supposed he lived longer, Mahathir would probably not force him out, for he was the one rescuing Mahathir from his political wilderness.
When he was the PM, Mahathir too was not free from attempts to oust him. First by the group led by Finance Minister and ex Deputy PM. Second by his protege turned enemy, Anwar Ibrahim. In both occasions he refused to budge and utilized the incumbent advantage, helping himself with the state apparatus to ensure that he continued to be in power. He ended his prime ministership on his own accord after 22 years in office, in 2003, during the period whereby there was no threat to his throne.
Mahathir and Najib seem worlds apart. The former is confrontative, the latter is evasive. The former has no qualm about making enemies, the latter prefers to conciliate and accommodate all and sundry.
But one thing they seem to have in common. Both know and will not mind using whatever apparatus and means available to them as the men in power in order to remain in power.
Learning from his former mentor and current nemesis, Najib seems to know that no one can force the PM of Malaysia to step down if he does not want to. Mahathir had proven that during his time. Najib seems to want to prove the same.