KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is under no political threat despite the United States declaring that it would be seizing assets the country believes were bought from money stolen from a state-owned fund by people close to the Prime Minister, reported Singapore's The Straits Times.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuits allegedly linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund will, however, likely not undermine Najib's secure grip on power, as he has a firm hold over the ruling Umno, and control over key Malaysian institutions, such as security agencies, it said.
The report on Saturday cited an opinion research firm as saying how the country's Opposition was fragmented.
"Najib's security is because the Opposition and Umno dissidents are not able to come together to present a coherent message and credible alternative," said Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Centre polling outfit.
In the immediate term, Najib's focus will be to further consolidate his power at home, said the report, adding that he is expected to continue with his strategy of stubborn ignorance to the fallout from the 1MDB fiasco.
"It has been the strategy from the start and it has served him well. There is no reason to change," said a senior researcher with a local think-tank who requested anonymity.
Najib started 1MDB shortly after taking over the premiership in April 2009 to pursue strategic investments abroad.
But according to the DOJ, senior Government officials and businessmen close to the Prime Minister used the fund as a private piggy bank right from the start, the report said.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing. He has dismissed the intense international media coverage on financial mismanagement and alleged money laundering of 1MDB's finances as false and aimed at undermining his administration.
On Thursday, the Government said it would cooperate with the US in its investigations, but insisted that local regulatory agencies had cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in the 1MDB case.
The US Justice Department's civil lawsuits to seize more than US$1bil (RM4.02bil) in assets strikes very close to the Prime Minister.
The assets marked for seizure are held by Riza Aziz, his stepson, businessman Jho Low, and two former Abu Dhabi government representatives.
The Straits Times wrote that while Najib's grip on power was not in any serious trouble, the tarring of his political reputation could have repercussions for him personally.
Diplomats and analysts noted that the US move would make it uncomfortable for Najib to attend international events in the near term, said the report. Others argued that it could make it uncomfortable for foreign leaders to be seen interacting with him.
The report added that the move could also alter Malaysia's foreign policy.
The DOJ probe is likely to strain ties between Washington and Kuala Lumpur and could nudge the Najib government closer to China, which is pushing very hard to find allies in the region, it said.
"The latest twist in the 1MDB affair does play to China's advantage. The question is how far Malaysia will bend (towards Beijing)," a Western diplomat in Kuala Lumpur was quoted as saying.
In late 2015, two China state-owned corporations acquired 1MDB's Edra Global Energy, the country's second largest power producer, and a majority interest in the fund's property development arm for a combined price tag of US$4bil (RM16.3bil).