Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ismail Sabri Yaakob sworn in as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister

Ismail Sabri Yaakob sworn in as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah (right) presides over newly-appointed Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s oath-taking. BERNAMA

Ismail Sabri Yaakob sworn in as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister

Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob was sworn in as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister on August 21, marking his party’s return to power just three years after it lost federal power for the first time since the country’s independence.

Ismail Sabri is the country’s third premier since the historic 2018 elections, when the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition was voted out of power for the first time in 61 years.

However, prolonged political uncertainty that followed the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government early last year finally resulted in Umno returning to assume the post of prime minister.

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah presided over Ismail Sabri’s oath-taking at 2:30pm (0630 GMT) on August 21, five days after the latter’s predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin resigned as prime minister following a loss of parliamentary majority.

Ismail Sabri, similar to Muhyiddin, will lead the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition with a slim majority until Malaysia recovers from its current Covid-19 crisis and a general election can be called. He has the support of 114 out of 220 sitting members of Parliament (MP) against 105 seats controlled by the opposition.

Another senior Umno MP, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, abstained from supporting Ismail Sabri.

Malaysia’s Lower House has 222 seats, but two seats remain vacant following the death of the incumbents, with a by-election not being called so far due to the persistently high number of Covid-19 cases.

Ismail Sabri’s immediate task would be focused on recovering Malaysia from its current Covid-19 and economic crises. Much of the country’s businesses have been shut since May to stem an outbreak of infections that had only gotten worse despite months of lockdown.

Malaysia recorded 22,262 new Covid-19 infections on August 21 – the fourth straight day infections have been above 20,000.

Malaysia however has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, and Muhyiddin previously said that the country expects to reopen much of its economy by October this year.

Some restrictions were loosened by Muhyiddin in his last days in office both as Prime Minister and caretaker Prime Minister, including allowing dine-in facilities for fully vaccinated individuals.

The outgoing premier has said that his party backed Ismail Sabri to ensure continuity to the policies of the previous administration.

Leading a loose coalition, Ismail Sabri also has to select a Cabinet line-up that would keep at least seven parties happy.

Former Cabinet Minister Annuar Musa, who is also from Ismail Sabri’s party, on August 21 said the cabinet lineup is unlikely to change drastically from Muhyiddin’s administration.

Ismail Sabri, 61, is the MP for the Bera ward in Pahang. He is in his fourth term as MP, and has served as a Cabinet minister for 10 years between 2008 and 2018 during Umno’s rule.

He became Umno vice-president following the party’s shock loss at 2018 polls, and also became opposition leader in the following year. However, he was appointed senior minister for security with the defence ministry portfolio under Muhyiddin’s PN administration after PH’s collapse early last year.

Last month, he was promoted to the post of deputy prime minister by Muhyiddin, before ascending to the country’s top post last week.

Ismail Sabri’s appointment has received mixed response among opposition politicians.

Ismail Sabri won the race ahead of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who earlier on August 21 urged his supporters to redirect their focus on Malaysia’s 15th general election which has to be held by 2023.

Shafie Apdal, who leads Sabah-based opposition party Warisan, on August 20 said he could have won majority support should he have been nominated for the post by the rest of the opposition bloc.

The bloc – including former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – had united to back Anwar’s bid to bring him 105 votes, six short of a majority in Parliament. Shafie was among those who had backed Anwar.

Warisan youth chief Azis Jamman previously asked the bloc to support Shafie to become prime minister should Anwar fail to get majority support.

The Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) Damansara MP Tony Pua meanwhile criticised his colleagues in the opposition for the role they played in pushing out Muhyiddin, which in turn handed power back to Umno.

“Getting kicked out of government in February 2020 was bad. But playing a major starring role in returning power to Umno? Devastating,” Pua wrote. His PH colleagues had agitated alongside a faction in Umno to weaken the Muhyiddin government.

Anwar’s PH, then led by Dr Mahathir, won federal power in 2018 while the former was still imprisoned on sodomy charges.

Anwar was subsequently released and pardoned, but the PH government collapsed due to defections before Dr Mahathir passed on the premiership to Anwar as per a pre-polls arrangement.



  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Bosba: The first Khmer woman composer from UK’s Cambridge

    Bosba Panh is just 25 years old, but she’s already accomplished some impressive milestones for herself and the Kingdom. On July 24, she graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge as the first Khmer woman composer and Khmer music graduate ever at

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • ‘Golden’ Angkor Wat likely due to natural phenomenon: ANA

    Pictures and video clips of the Angkor Wat temple, its spires seemingly coated in gold, have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media, prompting a sense of wonder among those who have seen them. Hong Sam Ath, who took the pictures and

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’