PRIME Minister Najib Razak is on course to victory at the 14th general election next year, thanks to a “personal deal” struck with PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, said a political analyst.

By year-end, Najib will be politically stronger as the deal with PAS has effectively blindsided his arch-enemy, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and the Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition which the former prime minister now leads, said James Chin, the director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania.

PAS severed ties with DAP over the latter’s opposition to hudud, a move which led to the collapse of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition.

In April, the Islamist party created history when Hadi’s private member’s bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat. The bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 is better known by its Malay acronym RUU355.

“Najib has promised Hadi that Umno will support RUU355… Most legal experts believe that once RUU355 is passed by Parliament, it will be the first step in altering Malaysia’s largely secular federal constitution,” Chin said in his analysis.

“The unwritten deal between Hadi and Najib is that once Najib wins the general election, Umno will adopt RUU355 as a government bill.”

The electoral strategy is for PAS to play “spoiler” at GE14 by creating as many three-cornered fights as possible in 110 to 120 rural Malay-Muslim seats, which are targeted by Dr Mahathir’s party, Bersatu, and PAS splinter party, Amanah.

Traditionally, three-cornered fights have favoured the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and with the spit vote, BN will win the bulk of the Malay seats and, therefore, win GE14, he said.

“Najib is so confident of this strategy that he has told his inner circles that Umno is aiming to take 140-160 seats in the 222-seat Parliament,” Chin said.

The Australian-based academic said Najib has largely deflected the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal despite the opposition’s “Love Malaysia, end kleptocracy” rallies and attempts to link the prime minister to the purchase of luxury assets, like real estate, paintings and jewellery.

Najib, he said, has also used Budget 2018, termed the “election budget”, to target the ruling coalition’s traditional supporters.

“By the end of the year, Najib will be politically stronger. His deal with PAS has effectively blindsided Mahathir and PH, and the 1MBD corruption allegations are by and large considered ‘old news’ by the all-important rural Malay electorate,” Chin said, adding that 2017 couldn’t have been a better year for the prime minister.