Who will replace Najib Razak if he goes away?
Those skeptical of attempts to legally push him out of office raise the question out of fear nothing will change. They are afraid it would achieve nothing and switch for yet another Prime Minister from Najib’s camp.
As a result, the alternative they seem to be fighting for is to do nothing and wait for a miracle. Somehow, a righteous Superman would descend down from the stars and make everything right. Perhaps, a just god would finally take a concrete form and change our fate for the better.
It seems to me, those who ask who will replace him, are embracing the Dr Pangloss character wholly. To them, we are living in the best of all possible worlds and any change would lead to a worse outcome.
Well, I am no Panglossian.
I believe keeping Najib in power risks damaging our institutions further. Pushing him out would slow the erosion, even if the next Prime Minister is less than a desirable character.
One institution now at risk because of Najib remaining in power is the central bank. The Governor is set to retire end of April and there are concerns Najib will nominate someone new who will toe the line and stop digging down the 1MDB hole. This is damaging the independence of the central bank, which will hurt the bank’s credibility to run monetary policy. In other words, if indeed the next Governor is a Najib’s man, then it would spread the trust deficit from Putrajaya to Jalan Dato Onn. The situation has gotten so bad that, believe it or not, there is something bigger at stake here than 1MDB.
Changing the Prime Minister would minimize that risk. Keeping him does nothing at addressing the risk.
As for the question, who will replace him, and if indeed it would be yet another corruptible person, so be it and the attempt to build a better Malaysia continues on. But there is a small chance the change will be for the better. Why not take it?
There is also another dimension people forget: expectations. Booting Najib out creates the expectations wrongdoing will be punished and so discourages, however little, the future Prime Minister from being blatantly corrupt doing as he pleases like an absolute ruler with no democratic checks and balances. In contrast, keeping Najib creates the expectations anybody can get away with murder.
Before anybody forgets, expectations are also part of institution-building. Forging the right expectations help builds trust in our institutions.
Yet, many want to do nothing about Najib and say, we need to reform our institutions for the better first. How do we reform when our expectation is Panglossian, that we live in the best of all possible worlds?