Najib supremely confident going into the polls

Radzi Razak

Prime Minister Najib Razak is confident of winning at least 140 seats in Parliament and even regaining a two-thirds majority. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 27, 2018.

ONE fact was unmistakable during Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent trip to Singapore: his confidence that Barisan Nasional will win the 14th general election – and win comfortably.

This confidence was evident at official meetings and during discussions on the sidelines, leading Singapore officials to note the upbeat tenor and body language of the scandal-hit Malaysian leader compared with a few months ago.

‎So, is Najib’s confidence of winning GE14 grounded on fact, or was the bravado on display in Singapore a strategy to remind the leadership down south that they will have to deal with him for a long while yet, notwithstanding the continuing 1MDB probe?

Umno believes that it will win at least 140 parliamentary seats, and regaining two-thirds control of Parliament is very much on the cards, with one internal study putting the best case scenario of the party wining 170 of the 222 seats.

The reasons for this optimistic outlook: a strengthening economy, a less cohesive opposition coalition and the willingness of Abdul Hadi Awang’s PAS to contest as many seats possible and split the Malay vote bloc.

“BN is confident of winning at least 100 seats just in the Peninsula,” a source in BN’s election machinery told The Malaysian Insight.

BN is also confident of maintaining its support levels in Sabah and Sarawak, he said.

Of the 222 parliamentary constituencies, Sarawak contributes 31 and Sabah 25 seats. There are 165 seats in the Peninsula.   

In GE13, BN won 133 parliamentary seats – 86 in the Peninsula, 25 in Sarawak and 22 in Sabah.

This performance by the ruling coalition was worse than what it achieved in 2008 when BN lost its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament, winning 140 parliamentary seats. 

The dismal showing in 2008 was against the backdrop of voter dissatisfaction with Abdullah Badawi over his slew of unfulfilled promises.

This time, Najib is confident that Umno’s friendlier ties with PAS, its main competitor for the Malay vote, will put the coalition on a better footing and make it tougher for Pakatan Harapan to emerge victorious from three or multi-cornered electoral contests.

Policies and economics 

Studies and analyses have shown that BN benefits when it enters an electoral contest against more than one opposition party, as it splits the non-BN vote.

GE14 will likely see multi-party contests in almost all seats as BN faces PH and another pact led by PAS, a party that has deep roots among Malay Muslims who make up about 60% of voters.    

BN is also more prepared going into GE14 compared with the previous polls, said KRA Group strategic director Amir Fareed Rahim.

“Plus, the PM is confident that senior Umno leaders in the top leadership are pulling their weight,” Amir said referring to Umno, the senior partner in BN.

BN Youth executive secretary Zaidel Baharuddin said Najib has regained the support of not only BN component parties but also investors and the business community.

“Firstly, BN (component parties) have settled their differences and their respective machineries are strong.

“Secondly, we have also succeeded economically. The economic indicators are up, exports have gone up, the ringgit is strengthening and stock market is also up,” Zaidel told The Malaysian Insight.

Najib’s success has also helped other BN leaders go on the offensive rather than be bogged down with countering opposition rhetoric.

“We don’t need to worry about what they say about us as we have our own policies which we are carrying out.”

Some of these policies have already been felt on the ground especially in urban areas, where the opposition got much support in GE13, said another Umno leader Rizalman Mokhtar.

These wins include enhancing public transport through the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) lines, building 80,000 affordable homes and reducing crime, said Rizalman.  

“Much of it has been delivered. The crime rate is also low. The public has seen much of what Najib has done,” Rizalman told The Malaysian Insight. 

In GE13, BN lost in almost all the urban seats it contested. In Kuala Lumpur, it won only two out of 10 seats.

Mixed signals 

Walaupun ditolak dua kali oleh pemimpin Umno Kelantan, ramai pemimpin akar umbi PAS masih berharap pakatan dengan Umno akan jadi realiti sebelum pilihan raya umum akan datang. – Gambar fail The Malaysian Insight, 8 Disember, 2017.

However, Amir of the KRA Group said BN could not afford to be overconfident.

“It must be stressed that Tun Dr Mahathir is a seasoned politician who has led and won five elections.”

Neither can BN automatically expect multi-party fights to give it the winning advantage.

“PAS can be a spoiler for both BN and Pakatan depending on the seats. On paper, it is a negative for Pakatan when PAS chooses to contest and induce a three-cornered fight,” said Amir.  

“But the outcome is different on a seat-to-seat basis, depending on the state sentiments and composition of Malay voters in the seat. It is not as clear-cut as some may think.”

For instance, in GE12 in 2008, the number of spoilt votes were higher than the winning majorities in Padang Terap, Sik, Kuala Selangor, Hulu Selangor, Bakri, Wangsa Maju and Kota Kinabalu. BN candidates lost those seats to either PAS, DAP or PKR.

But such cautious talk is alien in the Najib camp.

They point out that unhappiness over the rising cost of living will be neutralised with a generous sprinkling of goodies, including regular cash disbursements to target groups between now and GE14. 

And 1MDB?

Much of the anger over the financial shenanigans at the government-owned entity has dissipated, said Umno officials. 

These same officials also find comfort in the fact that unlike in 2008 and 2013, the opposition coalition is ‎less united, seemingly bogged down by personality clashes and some fatigue. 

So, in a nutshell, Najib’s confidence of a comfortable victory in GE14 can be nailed down to these factors: an improving economy, a fractured opposition, the key role played by PAS in forcing three-cornered fights and splitting the opposition vote, and dissipating anger about 1MDB.

Just one note of caution: the PM also was sure of winning comfortably in 2013. – January 27, 2018.

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  • On the night of result of GE13, you could see the blood draining from Najib face as the result roll in. He was scared out of his mind that night and that was the start of his plans with Hadi. The no 1. Source of confidence is Hadi, followed by redelineation and then the cash handout. He knows his performance and resume sucks. 2/3 is bull but win yes. Najib does not take chances, otherwise there would already be feelers out about terms of merger with PAS - someone probably researched this already.

    Posted 6 years ago by Bigjoe Lam · Reply

  • Ha ha ha supremely confident but why dragg till the last minute?during m as pm he’ll dissolved parliment on the 4th year.

    Posted 6 years ago by Leslie Chan · Reply

  • Aiyaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! talk and write so much for what!!!!! If so very confident , should immediately disslove the parliament and call for the GE14. WTF!!!!!! Fake news all over to spruce up the economy and financial strength. All these will not work. !!! Maybe the gerrymanderring will provide some relief but that will not be enough to squash the anti Najib UmnoBN sentiments. Live with it for it is preordained that you shall be the last PM under the Umnos' name.

    Posted 6 years ago by Lee Lee · Reply

  • We should be happy that Najib is confident, for whatever reasons he has. Else, he will not be happy to call for GE14, and we cannot vote.

    Posted 6 years ago by Meng Kow Loh · Reply