If confirmed, Sabri’s appointment will mark the UMNO’s return to leadership three years after the party lost the polls over corruption allegations.
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is moving closer to forming the next government after gaining a parliamentary majority from the same coalition that collapsed earlier this week.
If confirmed, Ismail Sabri’s appointment would mark the return to leadership of the United Malaysia National Organization (UMNO) party, three years after he lost a general election due to corruption allegations, especially surrounding the multi-million dollar scandal at the bottom of investment 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Acting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who resigned earlier this week after admitting that he had lost majority support, said on Thursday that his coalition unanimously backed his former MP to ensure the continuity of policies on “the fight against the COVID-19 and the nation’s recovery “until appropriate. to hold elections.
The support was conditional on Ismail Sabri ensuring that the new cabinet members were free from corruption charges, he said in a statement.
Several UMNO politicians were accused of corruption after the 2018 electoral defeat.
UMNO Secretary General Ahmad Maslan said in a tweet that Ismail Sabri currently has the support of 114 lawmakers in the 222-seat parliament. The figure exceeds the 111 required for a simple majority.
The decision on the new head of government is likely to be announced on Friday after King Al-Sultan Abdullah meets with other royals.
The king’s role is largely ceremonial in Malaysia, but he appoints the person he believes has majority support in Parliament as prime minister.
Ismail Sabri’s UMNO ruled the country for more than 60 years until the 2018 electoral defeat. The two governments that came after the polls proved fragile and short-lived. UMNO was part of the latter, but Muhyiddin’s coalition collapsed when some of his lawmakers withdrew.
Ei Sun Oh, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Ismail Sabri’s government also could not be stable given its slim majority.
He added that Malaysians will view Ismail Sabri’s appointment under the same alliance “as nothing more than a set of musical chairs.”
“His cabinet appointees are likely to be familiar faces and it is more than likely that similar policies that failed to halt the progress of the pandemic or stimulate economic growth will continue with minor adjustments.”
The other contender in the race, Anwar Ibrahim, leads a tripartite alliance that is the largest opposition bloc with 88 votes. Even if all the opposition parties support him, he would still fall short with just 105 votes.
Anwar was to succeed then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad before his reformist alliance collapsed in February 2020, prompted by the withdrawal of Muhyiddin’s party.
Muhyiddin then formed a new government with UMNO tainted by corruption and various other parties.
But he had to depart after less than 18 months in office amid internal disputes and growing public anger over what was perceived as his government’s mishandling of the pandemic.
In the Muhyiddin government, Ismail Sabri was one of the ministers responsible for framing Malaysia’s response to the pandemic and could take office at a time when the country’s coronavirus infections and deaths per million are ranked highest. region of.
Public anger has risen in recent months over the administration’s handling of the crisis, as infections continued to spread at a record rate despite multiple prolonged shutdowns and increased vaccines.
A member of parliament since 2004, Ismail Sabri served as a cabinet minister under two other prime ministers before Muhyiddin and held various portfolios including rural and regional development, agriculture and domestic trade.