Malaysia’s New Premier Calls for Cooperation, End to Power Grabs

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob struck a tone of reconciliation in his inaugural public address, seeking to bring stability to a nation that has seen three premiers in 18 months. 

Ismail extended an invitation to opposition leaders to be part of the National Recovery Council that oversees the country’s plan to exit the pandemic, and the special Covid-19 committee. He also appealed to all members of parliament to work together to help revive the nation “without digging for differences,” after political maneuvering toppled the previous two administrations.

“I understand that the political conflicts that have besieged the country have distressed the public,” Ismail said in a televised speech on Sunday. “Therefore, it is imperative that political stability is swiftly achieved through togetherness, and this includes cross-party cooperation.”

The nation’s king on Friday named Ismail as the new prime minister, replacing Muhyiddin Yassin who resigned on Monday. The monarch determined he had the backing of 114 of Malaysia’s 220 MPs, a slim majority that may soon be put to a confidence vote in parliament.

“Changes to the political landscape leading to change of governments in such a short period of time can only be construed as detrimental to the people of Malaysia and the country,” Ismail said. “Let us move forward. Let us stem this grab for political power.”

Ismail’s appointment was a blow for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who had a deal to succeed Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister following a surprise 2018 election win by what was once the opposition. But that never happened, with Mahathir’s resignation in early 2020 kicking off instability that has gripped the country ever since.

As Malaysia’s ninth prime minister, Ismail inherits a legacy of deep political divisions, a weakened economy and virus outbreaks that have shown few signs of weakening despite months of lockdowns. The central bank this month cut its 2021 economic growth forecast for a second time as renewed curbs on movement and rising infections hampered the recovery. 

Ismail Sabri Yaakob speaks in his first address as prime minister.

Ismail said he intends to revive the economy by raising citizens’ purchasing power and wants to return the private sector to its role as the main driver of growth. The government will focus on Malaysians who have lost their jobs and sources of income, the middle class, and small and medium companies, he said.

Authorities will also focus on boosting the manufacturing industry and domestic tourism sector, he said.

The new government will build on the previous administration’s Covid-19 strategies by considering the views of public health experts, Ismail said, adding that the national vaccine roll-out will be expedited to achieve inoculation targets sooner. 

Daily Covid-19 cases hit records on three consecutive days last week. The country added another 19,807 cases on Sunday.

By : Anisah Shukry – BLOOMBERG News

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