Anti-graft official in hot water . . .
The head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Azam Baki, is at the centre of corruption allegations following whistler-blower reports into his private investments published in December. Azam is accused of violating the civil service code for his shareholdings in two companies that exceed the code’s limit of 100,000 MYR (C$30,000). The scandal escalated after Malaysia’s Securities Commission revealed the share purchase was Azam’s own doing and not his brother’s, as he had previously claimed. However, the Securities Commission announced it could not conclusively determine if Azam had breached any law, further angering opposition parties and constituents.
Youth demand action . . .
On Saturday, more than 200 people participated in a protest in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. The youth-led protesters included members from opposition parties and some 30 civil society groups, who demanded further investigations into Azam’s dealings and his immediate removal. Azam ascended to MACC’s top post in 2020 following the return to power of Malaysia’s longest-ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). Aside from triggering a protest amid COVID-19 movement restrictions, ‘Azamgate,’ as the scandal has been dubbed, has given further fodder to critics who see the inaction by top government officials like Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and the Securities Commission as protection of corrupt elites.
Not a promising track record . . .
The public outcry over Azamgate signals strong dissatisfaction with Malaysia’s top leadership and political interference in supposedly independent agencies like MACC. Malaysian voting demographics are also changing, possibly eroding UMNO’s historical power. The country’s youth voting bloc is shaping up to be a crucial political segment in the next general elections after a 2019 law lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 went into effect in December. Azamgate fallout may further damage UMNO’s standing among youth. The party is already mired in corruption scandals, most prominently with former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 1MDB graft scandal, which cost the party the 2018 general elections. However, after the fractious dissolution of 2018’s victorious Pakatan Harapan coalition in 2020, UMNO has been recapturing power, with big wins in state elections through 2021. Youth dissatisfaction with UMNO will likely crop up in the upcoming Johor state elections.
- Channel News Asia: Malaysian protesters demand resignation of anti-graft chief
- Malaysia Now: Muhyiddin spilled details of Najib’s request for judicial meddling attempts in letter to lawyers
- South China Morning Post: In Malaysia, hundreds march against under-fire anti-graft chief Azam Baki