US lawsuit not expected to affect Malaysian politics much

Joshua Kurlantzick

KUALA LUMPUR – July 21, 2016: The lawsuit filed yesterday by the United States’ Department of Justice, linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) will not pose serious impacts to Malaysian domestic politics, say senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Joshua Kurlantzick.

In his recent article on the CFR’s website,  Joshua noted that the lawsuit is seizure of assets involved in and traceable to 1MDB, saying that over USD3.5billion were misappropriated from the state strategic fund.

Joshua, who is also an American journalist and Southeast Asian politics expert said that the latest 1MDB saga, however, is likely to have minimal impact on the country’s political affairs.

He wrote that this will not affect the administration of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, as Najib had managed to consolidate his position amidst the commotion.

“Don’t expect the case to lead the Malaysian government to fold, the way that investigations on Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) triggered reforms in that institution.

“Yes, the perception within Malaysia (and probably globally) is that Najib played a central role in 1MDB’s funny business, his denials to the contrary.

“Yes, Najib is probably very unpopular with urban Malaysians, although no poll has been taken in recent months that quantifies his support or lack thereof in urban areas.

“But, Najib also has proven a masterful and tough politician throughout the 1MDB scandal,” he added.

Joshua pointed out that the prime minister’s front remains sheltered as the country’s opposition has “fallen apart” even as the investigations against 1MDB mounted.

He also wrote that the opposition coalition is fragmented with its de-facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in jail.

“It was always a coalition held together with scotch tape, but last year Pas left. Pas had long argued with other members of the coalition over social issues, including whether state and federal governments could implement Islamic law on a range of criminal issues.

“The new coalition that has emerged, which includes some small remnants of Pas, is weaker; it lost two by-elections to the ruling coalition in Selangor and Perak in June,” he added.

He further opined that the new opposition pact by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir is not expected to be able to challenge the ruling Barisan Nasional.

“Anti-Najib politicians and civil society activists are in such disarray that some belatedly have come around to seeing Mahathir as their champion.

“Now, Mahathir says he is forming a new party to reinvigorate Malaysian politics. He probably will populate with some leading critics who were fired from Najib’s cabinet and other senior levels of Umno.

“But it’s not likely to restore Malaysia’s opposition to the level of being able to challenge, nationwide, for control of parliament,” he added.

1MDB in a statement today had stressed that it does not have any assets in the US nor has it benefited from the various transactions described in the suits.

The strategic investment company said that it will fully cooperate with any foreign authority, subject to international protocols governing such matters and the advice of the relevant domestic lawful authorities.



About the author

Amira Nutfah Zulkifli

Amira Nutfah Zulkifli

A budding journalist. Aside of struggling to understand Malaysian political scenario, she is inspired to study and fight for women's emancipation. Above the rest; she simply loves her nation.