Commentary: Who benefits from former Malaysia PM Najib’s partial pardon?


While the internal discussions held by the board will be kept private, it appears that there are several motives for the reduction. The first would be the spirit of reconciliation, given that Najib is a senior political figure who still commands considerable support within his party, UMNO.

The second would be links between the monarch and Najib, given that the latter is also from Pahang and is a member of that state’s aristocracy. Yet, in granting only a reduction in Najib’s sentence as opposed to a full pardon, the outgoing monarch is spared any later embarrassment should the former prime minister be convicted of any of his pending charges and receive another custodial sentence.

Beyond this, this legal denouement is likely to be relatively well-received by various quarters.

First, while UMNO diehards have been pushing for a full pardon, this decision goes at least some way to meeting their demands. The party, a member of the unity government, has at least a demonstrable deliverable to show for months of lobbying. This will minimise the chances of disgruntled party insiders tipping the apple cart in a fit of pique.

Second, the decision has aroused anger and angst among urbanites across the nation, who have questioned the process and rationale for the partial reprieve.

Yet, Najib is still in prison, and there are other, larger cases against him. Indeed, he faces charges of abuse of power and money laundering of a staggering RM2 billion pertaining to 1MDB. Thus, Najib has not gotten off scot-free and his legal travails are far from over.

Should the former prime minister have been granted a full pardon (and his other cases mysteriously vanished), he would have been able to resume his political career. However, Najib’s partial pardon means that he will be sidelined for at least one electoral cycle.

This is because following his release, the former prime minister will be barred from holding political office for five years. Thus, should Najib be released in August 2028, this would be well past the next general election which is due by late 2027. Indeed, he would not be able to run for office himself until August 2033.

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