Ismail Sabri Yaakob: Malaysia’s new PM is establishment stalwart

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia’s incoming premier Ismail Sabri Yaakob is a veteran politician from the country’s longest-ruling party, but analysts say he is a stop-gap leader with little chance of ending long-running turbulence.

The 61-year-old was named prime minister Friday after the collapse of Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration this week, and is Malaysia’s third new premier in less than four years.

He is from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main party in a coalition that governed Malaysia for decades after independence.

Relatively low profile most of his career, he rose to greater prominence during Muhyiddin’s 17-month administration.

As defence minister, he gave daily briefings on the fight against the pandemic and was promoted to deputy prime minister in the administration’s final days.

His links between different factions may give the new government marginally stronger backing in parliament than during the chaotic Muhyiddin era, analysts say.

Ismail Sabri is “a bridge between the different camps in (Muhyiddin’s party) and UMNO — the man in the right place”, said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia expert from the University of Nottingham.

But his government is effectively an expanded version of the one that just fell apart — Muhyiddin and his allies are supporting him — and he has not been elected by the public.

The king picked the prime minister based on who commands most support in parliament rather than going for an election for fear it could worsen a dire virus outbreak.

‘Covid mismanagement’

He is likely to face constant attacks from the opposition, and risks starting his term with damaged credibility as he was key figure in overseeing the last administration’s widely criticised pandemic response. – AFP