Snap Insight: Najib’s reduced jail term isn’t a full pardon, but his shadow still looms


Najib’s age matters a lot here. If he does not receive any sentence reduction, he will be 81 years old when released in 2034. If Najib walks free in 2026, he will be 73 years old – not significantly older than the past four prime ministers when they assumed office.

However, the Pardons Board made no mention of the five-year ban from politics, as laid out in the constitution, that typically succeeds a prison sentence. Even if Najib is released on 2026, he has to wait till August 2031 before contesting in any election, guaranteeing him to miss at least one election cycle.

Of course, Najib’s influence is not only limited to elections. Returning in 2026 could already guarantee his place in UMNO, using his flagship “Bossku” (my boss) branding to reinvigorate his base. 

The current UMNO president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, could now tell his party that he has fulfilled his promise of pursuing a pardon for Najib, and this is the fruit of his labour.

While this success could help him hold on to the presidency for a few years, the pressure for Najib to take over the reins will start to build. Mr Ahmad Zahid would have to make another political manoeuvre to keep Najib friendly but at bay.

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