Akademi Nusantara’s Azmi Hassan believed that Najib fared better than Anwar as he was able to dish out statistics and data, which the PKR president seemingly failed to rebut.
“It seemed like Anwar didn’t do his homework. As a potential prime minister, he has to have a grasp on everything, whether it’s economics, geopolitics, or even social issues. But I’m quite dissatisfied (by Anwar’s debate performance).
“On the other hand, Najib put up statistics and data from his experience as a former prime minister in defending his points, especially on Sapura and Malaysia’s future.
“But did we learn anything new? No, we didn’t. We’re very aware of what both debaters said,” Azmi told FMT. “It was a normal debate; nothing much, nothing new.”
Azmi perceived the debate as a showdown between a former prime minister and a “wannabe” prime minister, but felt that Najib went into it with less to lose compared to Anwar.
“Najib doesn’t hold any position in Umno and he has never said he wants to be prime minister again. On the other hand, Anwar is the future prime minister, at least for PH,” he said.
He also said Najib approached the debate seeking to give solutions based on data and his experience, while Anwar seemed to be focused on faultfinding.
“I think I counted eight or nine times where Anwar used the term ‘forensic audit’, meaning he’s trying to find fault rather than propose a solution, the latter of which is very important for a future prime minister.”
But Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said Anwar “undoubtedly” came out tops in the debate, by strongly renewing calls for an overall reform of the governmental system to address systemic corruption and incompetence.
On the other hand, he told FMT, Najib mostly relied on his much-repeated emphasis on political stability and economic prosperity for Malaysia.
With that said, Oh believed that the debate brought some sense of political participation to common folk, albeit indirectly, after the past few years of elites just wresting power from one another as Malaysians watched from the sidelines.
“I think the debate provided the summary of both sides of the controversy for those who went for the content, and at least some entertainment for those who are fans of either side,” he said.
The much-awaited debate saw Najib and Anwar touch on familiar themes that have come to define their careers, starting off with a back-and-forth on Sapura before going into national issues like the economy, governance and the way forward for the country.
However, what was billed as a lively debate turned out to be a session for Najib and Anwar to dish out political rhetoric.
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