Former Malaysia prime minister, and now convicted and incarcerated felon, Najib Razak, has filed a petition to attain a royal pardon, FreeMalaysiaToday reported.
As the petition comes within 14 days of his being sent to prison, he will remain the member of parliament for Pekan, in Pahang state.
Pardon the expression
Najib was sent to prison on Aug. 23 after exhausting his appeals. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, along with a RM210 million fine (S$65.1 million).
He was convicted of three counts of criminal breach of trust, along with one count each of money laundering and abuse of power.
Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) Azhar Harun said that Najib filed the petition on Sep. 2, within 14 days of Malaysia's Federal Court affirming Najib's conviction.
The petition will then be considered by the Malaysian king, in consultation with the Federal Territories' Pardon Board.
According to the former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman, speaking to FreeMalaysiaToday, the Malaysian government, led by fellow UMNO member Ismail Sabri, will be instrumental in this process, with the federal territories minister sitting on the pardons board, and the Prime Minister's Department to prepare a report for it as well.
Speaker of Dewan Rakyat confirms that Najib has submitted a pardon application to the YDPA.— Lim Wei Jiet (@limweijiet) September 5, 2022
And because there is a pending pardon application, the Pekan seat would not be vacated until the pardon is accepted/rejected by the YDPA. (This is correct under the Constitution) pic.twitter.com/0nHtvAkwOq
This allows Najib to retain his Pekan seat in parliament. He will only lose the seat should the petition is denied.
But there has since been an ongoing debate as to whether he would appeal for a royal pardon, and whether he could, or should, be pardoned if he does.
On Aug. 24, the day after Najib exhausted his appeals and was sent to prison, a mob of about 300 people gathered outside the gates to the Istana Negara, the official residence of the Agong, to demand a pardon for him.
Meanwhile anti-corruption non-government organisation Bersih launched a counter petition, also on Aug. 24, asking the king to not pardon Najib. As of the morning of Sep. 5, the petition has over 120,000 signatures.
Passions have built up to the point that even as the king took part in the Merdeka Day parade, he could not avoid the subject -- a member of the crowd yelled "Don't pardon him!" as the royal carraige rolled by. While there was no indication that the king heard the impassioned cry, it is clearly weighing on many people's minds.
“Don’t pardon him, Don’t pardon him” ! At the Merdeka parade just now ! Rakyat went to merdeka parade and delivered a message to agong for all of us... pic.twitter.com/CnOrmusjz5— Dr. Rais Hussin (@raishussin) August 31, 2022
The Star reports that petitions for Najib to receive a royal pardon have been distributed in his constituency of Pekan. The Pekan UMNO deputy division chief Zamri Ramly said he hoped to get 100,000 signatures in the constituency.
Pardon the expression
Speculation about a possible pardon started when former PM Mahathir Mohammed said that Najib had a "50-50" chance of getting a royal pardon.
The chief proponent of a pardon is the President of UMNO Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who according to The Edge Markets, made a call for for the party to support a petition campaign for Najib.
Added to this was the call for the current Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, also Vice President of UMNO, to call a general election soon.
Zahid and Sabri are believed to belong to different factions with UMNO, with Zahid and Najib belonging to the "court cluster", made up of UMNO members facing court trials for corruption. PM Sabri is said to belong to the "government cluster", and has been seen as lukewarm to acceding to the court cluster's demands for pardons and quick elections.
Najib and Zahid, along with Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor, all face multiple charges and trials; which are likely to play out over the next few years. Rosmah was herself convicted of soliciting and accepting bribes on Sep. 1.
A Malaysian lawyer, who declined to be named, speculated that from a strategic standpoint, Najib receiving a pardon now might not be the solution he's hoping for. Any pardon he receives now would likely not relieve him from the other charges he is facing at the moment, meaning he would require multiple pardons.
But if he were to wait until all his cases were resolved, not only would he have to likely spend years in jail; it would rule him out of the 15th General Election, legally required to be held before Sep. 14, 2023. But it is seemingly increasingly likely that the GE will be held sooner rather than later, with Malaysia uncharacteristically moving up its budget by three weeks from Oct. 28 to Oct. 7.
Top image via Istana Negara/Facebook & Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images