Any remaining political support for former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak could “collapse” once a corruption trial related to the scandal-ridden state fund 1MDB gets underway — despite the ex-leader’s recent attempts to shore up his popularity on social media, an analyst said on Tuesday.

Najib, ousted in an election in May last year, is facing more than 40 charges, including criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in relation to 1MDB. The former leader has pleaded not guilty, and the trial for 10 of those charges was supposed to start on Tuesday, but was postponed pending an appeal.

The delay could be seen as a “victory” for Najib, whose recent social media activity — which includes releasing a music video — is widely seen by observers as an attempt to engineer a political comeback, said James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania. But those efforts may be futile because the trial — when it eventually starts — will remind Malaysians of the scale of 1MDB’s alleged money laundering scandal, Chin added.

No new date has been set for the trial, but Reuters reported that a Malaysian prosecutor said the delay could last one or two weeks.

“Very often, the followers on social media and the likes you get on social media [do] not necessarily mean that you can translate that into broad political support in the real world. And also, I suspect that once the trial gets going, once people find out the amount of money involved and also how the money was misused, I suspect the political support will collapse after that,” Chin told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Tuesday.

Even then, a delay in the legal process and greater visibility on social media platforms could benefit Najib if it lasts long enough for the political climate in Malaysia to change, according to Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.



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