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Malaysia caretaker PM Muhyiddin backs former deputy as premier


Malaysias Caretaker Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin endorsed his former deputy Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the next premier, in a bid to ensure policy continuity as the country grapples with rising Covid infections.

Ismail Sabri has the support of 50 MPs from the former ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition to become prime minister, Muhyiddin said in a statement Thursday. Under constitutional law, any lawmaker who can command a majority in the 220-member parliament can stake a claim to form the government, and the king needs to give his assent to formalize the appointment.

"The decision was made to ensure the continuation of the PN government's policies which focused on efforts to fight Covid-19 and to revive the country" until an election is called at the right time, Muhyiddin said.

Muhyiddin and his cabinet resigned after more than 17 months in power on Monday, fueling a crisis of leadership in a country beset by a weakened economy and a surge in Covid cases. New cases soared by more than a record 22,000 for a second straight day on Thursday.

As a leading figure in Malaysia's fight against the pandemic, Ismail Sabri appeared almost daily in televised press briefings to update the public on containment measures. Still, the outbreak worsened, with confirmed cases breaching the one-million mark in late July, as the government oscillated between tightening and loosening restrictions on movements.

The monarch on Thursday met with MPs to verify that they backed Ismail Sabri, according to Ahmad Maslan, the secretary-general of the United Malays National Organisation. This came a day after lawmakers submitted letters to the palace declaring their choice of prime minister candidate.

Once appointed, the new prime minister should face a confidence vote in parliament as soon as possible, the palace said statement on Wednesday.

Still, Perikatan Nasional's support for Ismail Sabri is conditional, Muhyiddin said.

Ismail Sabri must ensure that his Cabinet members have integrity, are trustworthy and free of criminal charges in court, Muhyiddin said. The PN government under his leadership must continue to respect the principle of separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and uphold the constitutional monarchy, Muhyiddin added.

This rules out the possibility that Ismail Sabri's party colleagues, former prime minister Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, will be a part of the cabinet. Both are on trial for dozens of charges including corruption. The duo were also instrumental in bringing down Muhyiddin's administration when they and 13 other UMNO MPs withdrew their support.

Lawmakers from the Pakatan Harapan coalition backed Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, Fahmi Fadzil, communications director for the People's Justice Party, told Bloomberg News. The Sabah-based Warisan party, which is not a part of the alliance, supported Anwar as well, according to party leader Mohd Azis Jamman.

The monarch is set to chair a meeting with the royal rulers on Friday to discuss current issues.

Published : August 20, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Anisah Shukry