Political pundits say Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is likely to remain in power despite calls for his resignation amid a multi-million dollar corruption scandal.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported earlier this month that nearly $700 million from the troubled quasi-sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development (1MDB) was deposited into the Prime Minister's (PM) personal bank accounts, leading to the launch of an official investigation.
The PM has denied any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB and is reportedly considering a lawsuit against the WSJ over its coverage of the issue.
However, the expose, one of the worst political crises to embroil the 61-year old leader, appears to have triggered a serious backlash among voters. An analysis by social media research firm Politweet of 600 Malaysians on Twitter from July 3 to July 7 found that 85.5 percent of users felt negatively about the PM. Nearly 40 percent believed he should step down immediately.
Former PM Mahathir Mohamad has also demanded his resignation. "The person who has shamed the country is Najib and his 1MDB. Before this, the country was never ridiculed like this," he wrote in a recent blog post.
The investigation is the latest in a series of problems surrounding 1MDB. The troubled state-fund, whose advisory board is chaired by the PM, reportedly has a $11.6 billion debt load and investors are afraid of a public bailout even as the recent oil price crash strains the crude-exporting economy's finances.
The graft probe helped push the ringgit to its lowest level since the Asian Financial Crisis last week. Yet, experts say PM Razak will ride out the crisis relatively unscathed.
"Politically, his image is of course greatly affected but he will be able to survive because either the opposition or those in the party against him don't have enough members of parliament to topple him," said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University and former political secretary to the PM from 2009-2011.