Najib Says He Will Contest In The Next Election Despite Being Convicted For Corruption

The Pekan lawmaker, who was sentenced to 12 years' jail, said the law in place that bars him from contesting in the next General Election (GE) is "subject to interpretation".

Cover image via Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

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Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he will not rule out the possibility of contesting in the next General Election (GE) even though he has been convicted for corruption

Speaking to Reuters on Saturday, 18 September, the Pekan member of Parliament (MP) said his disqualification to contest in the next GE due to his conviction is "subject to interpretation".

"It depends on interpretation in terms of the law, the constitution, and whatever happens in court proceedings," he said.

The 15th GE must be held by 2023 latest. Najib said he will not push for early elections, unlike what eighth prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had promised to do so once the COVID-19 situation in the country comes under control.

Current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri's position on the possibility of holding a snap poll before the term ends is currently not known. Malaysia's nationwide election must be held once every five years.

When asked to elaborate why he would want to contest in the GE in two years' time despite his ongoing appeal against his conviction, he said, "Any politician who would want to play a role would want a seat in Parliament."

"At least your voice will be heard. You can speak in Parliament. Personally, yes, any politician today who wants to play a part would want to contest again."

Najib speaking to Reuters during an interview in Kuala Lumpur on 18 September.

Image via Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

Najib was convicted of all seven charges in the SRC International trial in July last year by the Kuala Lumpur High Court, the third-highest court in Malaysia

Here is the breakdown of the sentences according to each charge:

Abuse of power
- One count
- 12 years' jail
- RM210 million fine
- The sentence was carried out under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the value of the gratification

Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT)
- Three counts
- 10 years' jail for each offence
- The sentence was carried out under Section 409 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years, a fine, and whipping. However, since Najib is above the age of 50, he is not liable to whipping.

Money laundering
- Three counts
- 10 years' jail for each offence
- The sentence was carried out under Section 4(1)(b) Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001, which carries a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of five times the value of the gratification.

He was sentenced to 12 years' jail in total instead of 72 years because Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ordered the jail terms to run concurrently.

Najib walking out of the court after he was convicted in the SRC International trial on 28 July 2020.

Image via Wall Street Journal

Despite the sentence, he can still serve as an MP as Article 48(4)(b) of the Federal Constitution allows elected representatives to continue serving their roles as long as they file an appeal within 14 days against their conviction.

However, to run for an election or by-election with a conviction is a different matter. Article 48(3) of the Federal Constitution stipulates that if an MP is convicted of a crime that carries more than one year's jail and over RM2,000 fine, he or she cannot run for office to be an MP for a period of five years from the date of his sentence.

Constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew told Reuters that a convicted MP can only run for an election again when they are acquitted from their crime in court, receives a royal pardon from the Agong, or the Agong uses his discretion to remove the disqualification.

Despite the court proceeding and constitutional hurdle that Najib must first overcome, he said he will run in the next election because the law in place is "subject to interpretation".

During the interview with Reuters, Najib also mentioned premier Ismail possibly granting him a role in the government, but he hinted that he would not accept the offer, citing his clearing his name as his priority

He added that UMNO's return to power guarantees "temporary political stability".

Over the past two years, Najib and his defence team have repeatedly used Parliament sittings as a reason to postpone court proceedings.

The Opposition during Muhyiddin's rule also criticised Najib's role in Parliament, especially after he was appointed as the Barisan Nasional (BN) backbenchers' chairman (BNBBC) ahead of the tabling of Budget 2021.

Some of the MPs staged a walkout when Najib was given the floor to speak during the tabling of the Supply Bill in November last year.

Watch Reuters' interview with Najib below:

Learn more about Najib's conviction here:

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