KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Congratulating Mahathir Mohamad on Friday for winning Malaysia’s election, the younger brother of the defeated former prime minister Najib Razak lamented the failure of past governments to overcome “structural rigidities and vested interest”.
The 92-year-old Mahathir, who had been prime minister for 22 years until his retirement in 2003, had run a fierce campaign to bring down his former protege Najib, accusing him of corruption on a massive scale.
Taking to social media a day after Mahathir was sworn in as prime minister, Nazir Razak, the chairman of Malaysia’s second largest bank, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd (CIMB.KL), said that the country required change.
“As I have argued ad nauseum, Malaysia needs major recalibration, but all attempts under the old order failed due to structural rigidities and vested interest,” Nazir said in an Instagram posting.
The ‘old order’ was embodied by the Barisan Nasional multi-ethnic coalition that had led Malaysia since independence from British colonial rule until its shock defeat this week by a new, also multi-ethnic, coalition led by Mahathir.
Nazir called Malaysia a new icon of democracy, saying it had “defied the odds and global trends with this peaceful transition to power in line with the will of the people”.
He also compared Mahathir with his late father, Malaysia’s second prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein.
“Both of them share the same determination to nation-build to the best of their ability and limits of personal sacrifices.”
In the past, Nazir has criticized the “New Economic Policy” introduced by his late father in 1971, saying it had deviated from its original objective to eradicate poverty irrespective of race and eliminate identification of economic function with ethnicity.
The policy was perpetuated by every government including those led by Mahathir and Najib.
During that time it became mostly associated with affirmative action programs to boost the economic opportunities of the country’s majority ethnic Malays.
While Mahathir has often spoken of respect for the late Abdul Razak, he has described his decision to help Najib become prime minister as his greatest regret.
Mahathir came out of retirement to join imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to fight against Najib, having been angered by a scandal over the billions of dollars that had gone missing from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Najib, who congratulated Mahathir on his victory in a tweet on Thursday, has consistently denied any wrongdoing related to 1MDB.
In the months after the scandal first broke in 2015, Nazir said, without criticizing his brother, the handling of 1MDB had tarnished Malaysia’s image.
Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore