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Ismail Sabri appointed as Malaysias new PM amid worsening COVID-19 pandemic


Ismail Sabri, 61, was appointed by the king as Malaysias new prime minister. He is the vice president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and had served in Muhyiddins cabinet as defense minister before being appointed as deputy prime minister in July.

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Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has appointed former deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob as new prime minister of the country, the national palace said on Friday.

In a statement, the national palace said Ismail Sabri had received the backing of 114 out of the 220 members of the parliament (MP) in the lower house of parliament, a simple majority to form the government, hence Sultan Abdullah had agreed to appoint him as the prime minister in accordance with the constitution.
 

Ismail Sabri is scheduled to be sworn in on Saturday, the statement added.

Ismail Sabri's appointment came as Malaysia was mired in political fighting despite a dire situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysia saw a new record high of daily COVID-19 infections for the third consecutive day with 23,564 reported on Friday, bringing the national total to 1,513,024.

"His Majesty expressed his view with the appointment of the Prime Minister, the government must continue its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic immediately for the benefit and security of the people and the well-being of the country, which is greatly affected by the crisis and the threat caused by the pandemic," the national palace said in a statement.

"His Majesty expressed the hope that with the appointment of the new Prime Minister, the political crisis can be ended immediately and all members of parliament can set aside their political agenda to unite and unanimously work to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the interest of the people and the country," it said.

Ismail Sabri is succeeding Muhyiddin Yassin, who resigned on Monday after losing majority support in the lower house of parliament.

Ismail Sabri, 61, is the vice president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and had served in Muhyiddin's cabinet as defense minister before being appointed as deputy prime minister in July.

He has received backing from his own party UMNO and other parties in Muhyiddin's government, which gave him the simple majority in the lower house of parliament.

However, Ismail Sabri might not have much "honeymoon" on his new post as he would face an immediate task to consolidate his power and form a cabinet which is capable of handling the pandemic and the economic hardship.
 

With an identical political coalition of Muhyiddin's, Ismail Sabri came to power with a slim majority and this poses challenges for him to enjoy a stable government, political analysts said. Muhyiddin was forced to resign after about a dozen of UMNO MPs withdrew their support.

Political observer Azmi Hassan said the new prime minister will face pressure from his coalition partners as well as from his own party, with each competing to secure their interest.

He said the new prime minister needs to ensure that his cabinet appointments are made based on merit, and that he forms a capable cabinet.

"Ismail Sabri needs to demonstrate that he will design his cabinet not according to the party hierarchy but according to capabilities," he said.

Oh Ei Sun, principal advisor for Malaysia's Pacific Research Center, said Ismail Sabri will need to rapidly consolidate his political position to face the COVID-19 situation.

On politics, he is likely to face the same problems as Muhyiddin because he would have a very slim majority and if any of the coalition's components who are not happy with whatever policy or positions, they could throw tantrums just like UMNO did to Muhyiddin, and then his administration would be unstable just like Muhyiddin's, Oh Ei Sun said.

Published : August 21, 2021

By : xinhua