Najib rival unseated

Zahir Masjid, Kedah’s state mosque. The northerly state needs a new chief minister. Source: Flickr

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak tightened his grip on power after the son of his predecessor was removed for what he claimed was criticism of the premier’s involvement in financial allegations.

Mukhriz Mahathir, son of Razak’s most high-profile critic Mahathir Mohamad, resigned as chief minister of Kedah state after losing the state assembly’s support.

Observers see Mukhriz’s fall from power as evidence of Najib’s influence, despite determined efforts to unseat him from substantial figures in the ruling party.

James Chin, director of the Asia institute at the University of Tasmania, said: “It’s revenge for Mahathir Mohamad going against Najib. Mukhriz had supported his father against the prime minister.” Chin added that Mukhriz had a poor record in office.

Mukhriz announced that he was unseated for taking on Najib.

Najib’s office said Mukhriz had been forced to stand down because of “lack of confidence in his leadership” ahead of the 2018 election.

“The prime minister believes that the party and government must be disciplined and work together as a united team to combat the economic and security challenges Malaysia currently faces,” Najib’s office said.

The attorney general last week backed Najib’s denial of wrongdoing in receiving funds from the Saudi Arabian royal family.

Analysts say Mahathir is a problematic leader of an anti-corruption campaign as graft flourished during his 1981 to 2003 premiership.

Najib loyalists described Mukhriz’s criticism as a power grab rather than a principled stand against corruption.

As ever, Malaysia’s economy seems to unaffected, rising in the fourth quarter of last year to be the 36th most-confident country, according to a global online consumer poll.

With 80 percentage points, it climbed seven spots from the preceding quarter based on the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions which covered 30,000 online consumers in 61 countries.

However, Malaysia and Singapore, falling seven points to 94 percentage points, are the only two states out of the six polled in Asean scoring below 100 percentage points.

The average global consumer confidence was 99 percentage points, down two points versus the preceding quarter. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

In the third quarter of last year, Malaysian consumer confidence fell to an all-time low since the survey started in 2005.

“Consumer confidence has remained at what was the all-time low recorded in Q3 with just a small gain in Q4,” said Richard Hall, Nielsen Malaysia’s country manager. “This is not a surprise as nothing has really changed in terms of the economic or political environment with oil prices continuing to drop, the ringgit remained at its weak position and concerns surrounding job security continued to simmer.”