ON THE surface, he comes across as unflappable; seemingly in control of his political destiny.
A man who believes he has weathered the worst of times and now can even thumb his nose at his opponents by placing his men in government-linked companies and institutions without any backlash.
Yes, on the surface, Prime Minister Najib Razak looks secure.
But here’s the thing: why would someone who is unbeatable in his party and apparently in the strongest position he has been in 12 months be so thin-skinned when a junior opposition politician prods him about not enjoying the support of Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders?
Why would someone who has dismissed Dr Mahathir Mohamad as nothing more than a loudspeaker or U-turn specialist get so worked up about the former prime minister?
“He has no principles and will do anything – including allying with those he jailed, calling for foreign intervention in our sovereign democratic nation, sabotaging our economy and making 100 U-turns to manipulate people’s minds – just as a means to achieve his desired results.
“Anwar may fall for this, but I believe the nation will not. Because with only one parliamentary seat, the chairman of Pribumi cannot decide who becomes Prime Minister. It would be grossly undemocratic,” said Najib in a statement last night.
Why would someone supposedly in the ascendancy in the Malaysian political landscape react so easily to provocation by a veteran politician with a cupboard of skeletons?
Perhaps it’s because that under the surface, Najib is unsure about his own ability to deliver victory at GE14. Without a doubt, there is no one strong enough to take him on in Umno, but there remain a clutch of things outside his control.
First, a key assumption of a Umno-BN victory is that all the big names in the opposition will not be able to set their egos aside and work together. The result: a fractured opposition, quite different from the potent, united force Najib faced in 2013.
That assumption fails if Pakatan Harapan can agree on a slate of leaders and the future PM. With Mahathir endorsing Anwar as the future PM, a stumbling block for opposition unity could be removed.
Second, the rising cost of living is hurting. This fact is particularly true for the rural and urban poor, the traditional vote bank for BN.
The smart money says that Najib will have no choice but to dish out two tranches of cash to win over the restless but that’s easier said than done in the government’s revenue-challenged situation.
Third, of the so-called fixed deposit states of Johor, Sabah and Sarawak, only Sarawak looks secure for BN. The ruling coalition will retain control in Johor and Sabah but Umno insiders concede that it will be tough to repeat the 2013 performance in Sabah.
Finally, the 1MDB saga may be over in Malaysia but until Singapore, Switzerland and the United States end their investigation into the scandal, MO1 will have to continue looking over his shoulder.
Perhaps that too explains the prickly and tetchy attitude.