politics

The Battle to Lead Malaysia Gets Personal

'No Wrongdoing' on 1MDB Scandal, Malaysia’s P.M. Says

Want to receive this post in your inbox every morning? Sign up for the Balance of Powernewsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak may be best known internationally for a multibillion-dollar scandal at state investment fund 1MDB, a money trail that led to the Hollywood blockbuster, The Wolf of Wall Street, a $250 million yacht and a $3.8 million diamond given to actress Miranda Kerr.

At home, it’s his intensely personal election battle with a 92-year-old patron-turned-enemy that's gripping the nation.

Najib weathered the initial storm over 1MDB, and was cleared of wrongdoing. Now he has to defeat the man who helped bring him to power in 2009, Mahathir Mohamad, who came out of semi-retirement after they fell out over issues including 1MDB.

At stake for Najib is his coalition’s six-decade grip on power. He lost the popular vote in 2013 but won a narrow majority of seats in parliament. In his first international interview in more than three years, Najib said he’s “reasonably confident” he’ll do better on May 9.

“I may appear to be mild in my temperament, but I have a strong resilience in me,” says Najib. “I don’t give up easily.”

Najib surrounded by supporters as he arrives at a campaign rally today at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur. 
Photographer: NurPhoto/NurPhoto

Global Headlines

Mission not accomplished | Despite his best efforts, French President Emmanuel Macron said he thinks Trump will withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord, dealing a blow to the six-nation agreement reached in 2015 and endorsed by world powers. As Helene Fouquet reports, Macron’s bid to bring Trump back into the international fold during a three-day state visit looks set to draw a blank and may even complicate his relationships with allies in Europe.

May’s private meeting | Brexit-backing Conservatives were so alarmed by reports Theresa May was about to buckle on her red line to quit the customs union that they sought direct assurances from the prime minister. She met privately with a group of euroskeptics in her office yesterday, Tim Ross reports, and they left satisfied. But a bigger problem remains — a majority in Parliament is against the government’s policy to leave the EU’s trade regime.

Taking the Fifth | Trump’s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen said yesterday he will assert his constitutional right not to testify in a lawsuit brought by adult-film star Stormy Daniels to avoid the risk of incriminating himself in a separate criminal probe. Here’s Christian Berthelsen’s profile of Thomas McKay, the 32-year-old assistant U.S. attorney investigating this key figure in the Trump business empire.

Trump’s China gamble | The president’s top economic and trade officials will soon head to China to try to prevent tit-for-tat tariffs from taking effect. But analysts doubt they can convince Chinese President Xi Jinping to make any big concessions. And as Saleha Mohsin and Jennifer Jacobs report, White House advisers aren’t even clear on what sort of deal Trump would accept.

Kim’s swagger | When Kim Jong Un crosses the border dividing the two Koreas to shake hands with southern counterpart Moon Jae-in tomorrow, his footsteps will be laden with symbolism, David Tweed reports. Kim’s decision to meet on Moon’s side of the military demarcation line — making him the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea — reflects new confidence in the bargaining power of his nuclear-armed nation.

And finally… If giving birth in a hospital surrounded by half the world’s press wasn’t enough to put up with, Prince William and Kate Middleton have watched as gambling has soared on their third child's name — highlighting how Britons love to turn to the royals when the country is otherwise divided. Why worry about the ins and outs of the customs union or the Irish border when you can endlessly speculate if William and Kate will go for Arthur, which has been the bookmakers’ favorite, followed by Albert.

A bookmaker stands beside a blackboard with odds on baby names in London on April 23. 
Photographer: Jack Taylor/Getty Images Europe

 

— With assistance by Ben Sills, Kathleen Hunter, Brendan Scott, Daniel Ten Kate, Thomas Penny, and Flavia Krause-Jackson

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE