Perception is all that matters in Mahathir-Najib feud

Nikita Nawawi
Written by Nikita Nawawi

KUALA LUMPUR – June 10, 2015: The ongoing conflict between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and elderly statesman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has come to a point where perception building has become the focus rather than the laying down of facts and figures, say political analysts.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak senior lecturer Dr Jeniri Amir said both Najib and Dr Mahathir are now clearly in a battle to win the people’s perception.

“Whoever manages to build an unyielding perception will win the political discourse and though leaders are expected to use persuasion mode of logos (logical appeal), Dr Mahathir is apparently exercising his pathos (appeal to the audience’s emotion) card to create better perception of him among the people.

“Dr Mahathir already has the ethos (credibility) quality but now he is taking it up a notch higher to gain support and in political context, pathos definitely plays a significant role.

“His coming out with ‘I know I am alone’ expression was one of his strategies and it seems to be working in his favour,” said Jeniri.

Jeniri, however, is of the opinion that the usage of emotion in argument would distract the people from the real issues at hand and those who are less knowledgeable in politics and economy can be easily fooled.

He also believed that Najib is practicing logos principle in his persuasion technique to build an untainted perception of his leadership.

“He uses statistics and postulates facts to strengthen his argument though he does appear to be lacking in testimony.

“He needs to present reports by foreign economic observers that our economy is not as bad as portrayed by some,” he added.

Jeniri told The Mole that though the endgame of Najib and Dr Mahathir’s rivalry is hard to be determined, he was sure that both Najib and Dr Mahathir will not be backing down.

“Dr Mahathir will continue to push Najib out of the picture. He is a very opinionated man and he will not raise the white flag. His political ego is too big for that.

“Stopping the attacks against Najib would only tarnish his reputation. I do not expect Najib to slow down either,” he said.

Universiti Utara Malaysia political analyst Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said that Dr Mahathir’s method in creating public perception is strategically planned in stages.

“First he criticised Najib’s policies by putting the financial status of government’s strategic investment vehicle 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) under the spotlight.

“These criticisms later on had rationalised his beef towards Najib, claiming that the prime minister’s performance is worse than his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“The constant attacks had eventually led to Dr Mahathir’s demanding Najib to throw in the towel on the ‘incompetency ticket’,” he said.

Azizuddin added that while Dr Mahathir opted to launch merciless verbal attacks, Najib appeared to have taken the defensive approach.

“Najib had to refute Dr Mahathir’s claim that Barisan Nasional would lose in the next general election if he is still in power by laying down the facts and figures that Umno had done better in the previous 13th General Election (GE13), winning nine new parliamentary seats which added to a total of 88 seats won in comparison with the result in GE12 where the party lost 30 seats.

“However, Najib has lately become more  offensive as he fires back by bringing up the flaws during Dr Mahathir’s administration.

“It is no longer about the government policy when Dr Mahathir chose to pick on Najib’s wife Datuk Seri Rosmah Mansor for her alleged lavish lifestyle as one of his attacking points,” he added.

The bad blood between Dr Mahathir and Najib started last year but it was only in early April that Dr Mahathir had taken his tirade to a new level by demanding the prime minister’s resignation and listing down his “unanswered questions” in his blog.

Dr Mahathir had among others demanded for Najib’s explanation over the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu and the alleged mismanagement of investment fund 1MDB.

Najib had since tried to clear the air several times including giving an interview on a special edition of TV3’s  ‘Soal Jawab’ (Question & Answer) programme and had later addressed the raised issues on his official website.



About the author

Nikita Nawawi

Nikita Nawawi

Nikita Nawawi is an up-and-coming writer who started his involvement in the media industry serving established local English daily, before joining The Mole in October 2014 as journalist.