Analysts: Yes, Najib a social media hit, but public perception unchanged
PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has become a sensation with his arty trolling of people on the Internet, but social media and political analysts say his efforts will not change the public's perception of him.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said he did not think Najib was able to change people's perception.
However, he warned that if the government failed to address issues close to the public's heart, then there's a chance people could look at Najib's arguments or his points as an alternative.
"But to say that following whatever he addresses on his Facebook page is an endorsement of his leadership, I don't see that," he told The Star on Saturday (Jan 19).
Dr Sivamurugan said Najib's posts were now interesting as he could attract those he previously failed to attract.
"Certainly, he feels that by being labelled the King of Trolls that somehow people do read and observe what is going on," he said.
Dr Sivamurugan added that Facebook and Instagram might be the best platforms for Najib to express whatever he wanted as it was widely used by certain quarters of society.
Universiti Utara Malaysia political lecturer Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani also doubted Najib would be able to change the public's perception of him despite all the engagements on his Facebook page.
He said Najib was trying to change the perception that he had nothing to do with the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal, and that he was just a product of the system.
"He is trying to convince the people to not believe that assumption, so he is trying his best to use social media to change that perception. Whether he is successful... I doubt it, but maybe some people will be persuaded by him," he said.
Dr Azizuddin said the fact of the matter was that Najib had "nothing to lose", as the former premier was only waiting for his trial to commence. As such, he would use whatever medium he could, such as Facebook, to garner support.
He added that nobody would instruct Najib to stop his postings even if Umno and Barisan Nasional were uncomfortable with, for example, his presence in the Cameron Highlands by-election as he was still their former leader and a member of the party.
He said it was possible that Najib was currently running his own Facebook account based on the language used.
However, social media expert Danny Gnaniah disagreed with this assessment.
Gnaniah said the person running Najib's Facebook page was someone who was trying to engage with younger audiences.
He said Najib's posts were very calculated, with memes poking fun at certain issues with an aim to deliver a message. However, while he may be provoking a good laugh now and again, it remained to be seen if Najib could sway public opinion.
"I doubt it very much," said Ghaniah, who is also CEO of digital advertising and multimedia firm 4 Thirteen Group.
He said he would not use the social media engagement Najib got on his social media pages as a metric to see if public opinion had swayed towards him.
"Definitely not. He might win some sympathy, yes; he might also have some people grudgingly say that is a good point; but that does not mean public opinion has swung back to him," he said.
However, Gnaniah acknowleged that Najib was very smart in using social media as a means to reach out to the public and trying to be relevant again.
Najib has been popular on social media lately, with his latest jab at Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad being a hit. He also caused a stir on social media when he uploaded a picture of him posing on a Yamaha motorcycle with the phrase "Malu apa, bossku".