Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been appointed prime minister of Malaysia as a scandal-mired party that previously ruled for six decades regained the leadership it lost in the historic 2018 elections.
Ismail Sabri, who will be sworn in on Saturday, was deputy prime minister of the coalition led by Muhyiddin Yassin. Muhyiddin resigned on Monday after months of political turmoil that culminated in the collapse of his majority in parliament.
King Al-Sultan Abdullah, Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, had ruled out an election, due to the current Covid-19 outbreak in the country, and instead appointed a candidate he believed had the support of the majority of lawmakers. .
The appointment of Ismail Sabri will see the United Malaysia National Organization (Umno), the country’s oldest ruling party, regain the top leadership position. The party, which is the main component of the Barisan Nasional coalition, was toppled in the 2018 elections after becoming embroiled in the 1MDB corruption saga, often referred to as the world’s largest financial fraud case.
The king said Ismail Sabri had secured the backing of 114 lawmakers, giving him a slim majority. He garnered support from the same coalition that collapsed earlier this week.
Ismail Sabri, 61, comes to power amid mounting public anger over the latest wave of Covid, which is Malaysia’s deadliest since the start of the pandemic and has caused economic misery for many.
His appointment is unlikely to inspire hope that pandemic management will improve, said Dr. Serina Abdul Rahman, who is based in Malaysia and is a visiting fellow for the Malaysia program at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
“People’s response is really: go back to the same old story in terms of Covid management … [Ismail Sabri] it was critical to Muhyiddin’s handling of Covid, and now he has just risen through the ranks, from defense to deputy prime minister to prime minister, “he said.
“They are the same people managing the same pandemic that is only getting worse by the day,” Rahman added.
An online petition opposing the appointment of Ismail Sabri, accusing him of failing to control the pandemic during his time as deputy prime minister, has attracted more than 350,000 signatures.
Malaysia has reported a daily average of 256 deaths and around 21,000 cases in the past seven days, according to Our world in data. Cases have continued to rise, despite the lockdown that has been in place since June.
On Thursday, Malaysian authorities arrested 31 protesters who held a candlelight vigil to mourn the Covid-related deaths in the country. The photos showed protesters being herded by officers to a police van. Later they were ordered to pay a 2000 fine ringgit (£ 347) for violating Covid restrictions, according to human rights group Article 19.
Amnesty International said the arrests were “an ominous sign that even under a new government, the crackdown on freedom of assembly in the country will continue.”
“Our concern is that the Ismail Sabri government essentially represents a continuation of the previous administration, one led by the same politicians who have failed to respect human rights by cracking down on migrants, deporting refugees and repeatedly violating rights to freedom of expression and assembly. ”Said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, an Amnesty International researcher in Malaysia.
There were also concerns about how corruption charges against some Umno members could proceed after the party regains leadership of the country.
Muhyiddin, who is serving as interim prime minister, said on Thursday that his alliance would back his former MP until he was fit to hold elections. However, he said that support depended on the cabinet being free from any member accused of corruption.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism