Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak; born 23 July 1953) is a Malaysian politician who served as the 6th prime minister of Malaysia from April 2009 to May 2018. He is the son of another former prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein. Najib Razak was the chairman of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition from April 2009 to May 2018 and the president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) from November 2008 to May 2018, which had maintained control of Malaysia’s government with a parliamentary majority for more than sixty years until the coalition’s defeat in the 2018 general election.
Najib was elected to the Parliament of Malaysia in 1976, at the age of 23, replacing his deceased father in the Pahang-based seat of Pekan. In the same year, he was appointed the head of UMNO Youth’s Pekan branch and became a member of the youth wing’s Executive Council. In the early years of his political career, Najib took on a deputy prime minister role in 1976, and between 1982 and 1986, he was the Menteri Besar of Pahang. Thereafter, until 2009, he was rotated throughout the Cabinet of Malaysia, taking on various ministerial portfolios in defence, education, culture, youth and sports, and finally finance. Between 1993 and 2009, Najib was a vice-president of UMNO.
Najib’s tenure as prime minister, between 2009 and 2018, was marked by economic liberalisation measures, such as cuts to government subsidies, loosening of restrictions on foreign investment, and reductions in preferential measures for ethnic Malays in business. After the 2013 election his government was marked by the pursuit of a number of its critics on sedition charges, the imprisonment of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim following a conviction for sodomy, the implementation of a Goods and Services Tax (GST), and an ongoing scandal involving state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) which led to rallies calling for Najib’s resignation, spearheaded by the grassroots movement Bersih. These protests culminated in the Malaysian Citizens’ Declaration by Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan and NGO’s to oust Najib.
Najib’s response to the corruption accusations has been to tighten his grip on power by replacing the deputy prime minister, suspending two newspapers and pushing through parliament a controversial National Security Council Bill that provides the prime minister with unprecedented powers. Najib’s various subsidy cuts have contributed to soaring living costs, while fluctuating oil prices as well as fallout from the 1MDB scandal have led to a steady depreciation of the Malaysian currency. These ended with a loss of majority for Dewan Rakyat by BN in the 2018 general elections, which Najib then accepted the results of the election and promised to help facilitate a smooth transition of power. Najib remains as a backbencher in the Parliament of Malaysia.
On 3 July 2018, Najib was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), having investigated how RM42 million (US$10.6 million) went from SRC International, a company related to 1MDB, into Najib’s bank account. In the process, the police had seized a number of fashion accessories worth $273 million while searching through his properties. Najib was subsequently charged with abuse of power, multiple counts of criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and tampering with the 1MDB audit report. On 28 July 2020, the High Court convicted Najib on all seven counts of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust, becoming the first Prime Minister of Malaysia to be convicted of corruption, and was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and fined RM210 million.