KUALA LUMPUR • Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has been appointed chairman of Barisan Nasional's (BN) advisory board, even as he faces a slew of criminal charges linked to one of the world's biggest financial scandals.
His appointment on Tuesday was the unanimous decision of the former ruling coalition's supreme council, said BN's secretary-general, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.
"The decision to make Najib Razak the advisory board chairman is unanimous. He will assist BN in its efforts to win back the people's support," he said.
Najib faces 42 charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in connection with the scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, but these have barely dented his political career.
Instead, he has found renewed fame and popularity, thanks to an aggressive social media campaign that rebranded him as "Bossku" (my boss), complete with a theme song that is played at his events.
"He (Najib) has the highest social media profile so they need him," said Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania, University of Tasmania.
Naming him chairman would also prevent him from criticising the current Umno leadership, he added, referring to the former ruling party that leads BN.
Najib had stepped down as Umno president and BN chairman in May last year after BN suffered its first defeat in six decades in the general election.
Former BN secretary-general Nazri Aziz slammed the appointment yesterday. "I think it is regressive," Datuk Seri Nazri told reporters, pointing out that BN lost power in last year's general election under Najib's leadership.
"What kind of advice can he give us?" he said.
But Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Najib should be given a second chance.
"He has just been appointed, so we should give him a chance," he said. Datuk Seri Ismail said he believes Najib is not a liability to BN.