By Murray Hunter

BANGKOK, Thailand: With a Pardons Board meeting being set for the third week in January, the scene could be set for the board to grant a full pardon to former prime minister Najib Razak over his convictions in the SRC case. This will be one to the last official duties of the current YDPA, before he hands over the position to the Sultan of Johor on 31st January.
Although such a decision would receive widespread criticism from the public, the rage over the DNAA decision on Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s 47 charges of money laundering and corruption, was relatively short lived. Thus, any pardon of Najib will initially receive flak, which would well be expected to die down long before the expected 2027 general election.
Many within the unity government feel that that only way it can recapture the Malay heartlands is through a revitalized UMNO. However, Zahid has failed at this task, and the inner circle believe there are few other viable options. There is some consensus that Najib would be able to rekindle the spirits within UMNO and take Perikatan Nasional head on in the heartlands.
To many within the elite, pardoning Najib is a more desirable option to allowing PAS and Bersatu take power once again.
The time is right now, as the incoming YDPA will not have to bear the burden of unpopularity from the pardon and release of Najib.
From the above points of view the pardoning of Najib is for the greater good.
The initial objectives for Najib would be to hold UMNO’s vote in the Melaka and Johor state elections which will occur before the general election. Melaka and Johor will be the litmus tests before the general election.
With a pardon, Najib will be free to re-enter politics once again. However, it is unknown whether the current MP for Pekan will stand aside, or Najib will wait for an upcoming byelection. Within UMNO, Najib may remain the unofficial mentor of the party, until a suitable time to return to the presidency.
One thing for sure the ‘Bossku’ brand’ will return to the Malay heartlands on a long-term win hearts and minds mission. Najib will rebuild UMNO from both the top and bottom this time, turning the party into a mean electoral machine that can take on the PAS machinery head on.
The calculation is that Najib could put up 20 seats back into play for UMNO and sure up the 27 seats it already has. This is perhaps the only way Anwar can be returned for a second term as prime minister.
The interesting question out of this is what would Anwar and Najib be like working together?