KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has not ruled out seeking re-election to Parliament within the next two years despite a corruption conviction that would block him from running.
Najib, who served as premier for nine years until 2018, was found guilty of corruption last year and sentenced to 12 years’ jail over one of many cases over the misappropriation of money from now-defunct state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
He has denied wrongdoing and has appealed the verdict, while calling for a probe of his prosecution which he says was politically motivated.
He is still a MP, but the Federal Constitution bars him from contesting elections unless he gets a pardon or a reprieve from the country’s monarch.
Speaking to Reuters on Saturday, Najib challenged his disqualification, saying: “It is subject to interpretation.
“It depends on interpretation in terms of the law, the Constitution and whatever happens in the court proceedings.”
Asked if he would contest the next election due by 2023, he said: “Any politician who would want to play a role would want a seat in Parliament.”
He declined to specify, however, how he could get around the constitutional barriers.
Najib said in the interview that he had discussed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on a possible role for him in government.
Media reports have said he could be made an economic adviser.
However, he would not say if he would accept a position, saying his priority was on clearing his name.
He also said Umno’s return to power guaranteed “temporary political stability” and that he would not call for early elections, like he had with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
A future Najib candidacy would face a constitutional provision that any person sentenced to imprisonment for more than one year, or fined more than RM2,000, is disqualified from contesting a parliamentary election.
Najib, who faces more than 40 charges of abuse of power, money laundering and other offences mostly linked to 1MDB, said he can prove his innocence even as many entities and individuals around the world have admitted guilt or paid hefty penalties and settlements over the scandal.
He also claimed that charges against him were politically motivated, and is pushing for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, who first brought the cases against him in 2018.
Since 2018, the United States has returned to Malaysia more than US$1bil (RM4.2bil) in funds recouped from assets bought with stolen 1MDB money.