As attention shifts from PM handover, Dr M faces new challenge from… Najib?

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SEMENYIH, 08/02/2019. Are seen the Barisan Nasional and Pas flags are hung on the Sg Lalang road. The Semenyih State Legislative Assembly (DPR) by-election will be held on March 2 after Bakhtiar Mohd Nor, 57, died of a heart attack on January 11. Pix by Malay Mail / Hari Anggara.

IT seems like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad finally has a chance to catch his breath, since the question of him handing over the prime minister’s post to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has died down. Well, sort of.

There has been a noticeable silence over the matter since the Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership council met on Monday, a stark contrast compared to the weeks before, where many PKR leaders openly asked for a timeline for the handing over of the post.

With that settled, Dr Mahathir now faces another challenge amid his continued efforts to deliver on PH’s GE14 manifesto.

Just last night, Datuk Seri Najib Razak was welcomed back in Barisan Nasional’s fold, via an appointment as chairman to its advisory council.

Despite Najib facing a litany of corruption charges, BN doesn’t seem to mind having the person who led BN to its greatest defeat head its council tasked with reviving the troubled coalition.

Then again, BN’s president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor are also facing corruption charges.

But everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and it is clear that BN wants a piece of ‘brand Najib’.

This is despite some disquiet among Umno leaders like Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who have questioned BN’s decision.

Najib also looks like he has a formula at hand — his “man-of-the-people” “Bossku” persona has been credited (though unproven) with BN attaining Malay voter support in the last few by-elections.

One could argue that Najib remains even more popular today than he could have ever hoped during his tenure as PM.

Najib looks set to use that popularity to boost BN as a whole. And if you add Umno’s alliance with PAS into the mix, it looks like BN (or Najib) has designs on acquiring Malay votes.

Whatever the case, Dr Mahathir and PH have an arduous task ahead, in trying to steer the middle ground while appealing to an increasingly disenfranchised Malay community.

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