Malaysia — Dato Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been named the country’s ninth prime minister, succeeding Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who resigned on Monday.

The King held a special meeting this afternoon with the Malay Rulers to appoint the prime ministerial candidate and the government.

The Umno vice-president is expected to be sworn in as prime minister tomorrow.

Malaysia’s new Cabinet is like a game of musical chairs with the re-emergence of the old Cabinet, and is similar to the same old wine in a new bottle.

In this game of musical chairs, when the music stops, the Cabinet may be totally disrupted or break up as the appointment of Dato Ismail Sabri Yaakob as Prime Minister is conditional.

Current caretaker and past Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin categorically stated that the new Cabinet cannot admit those UMNO leaders facing kleptocratic criminal charges.

Muhyiddin, former Prime Minister, is expected to assume the role of minister mentor.

The move is seen as directly contrary to the King’s call on all political parties to discard “old politics” and form a unity government to safeguard the health and welfare of the people and to re-energize the economy.

Yesterday, the King’s met Ismail’s supporters of 114 MPs, which is part of the process of “making a judgment” under the Federal Constitution before he appoints a new Prime Minister.

He had conducted “rigorous verification” of MPs’ choice of prime minister, including to ensure that the letters submitted to the palace yesterday were signed without any duress and out of their own free will.

“If appointed as prime minister by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Ismail must ensure that his Cabinet members will be composed of those with integrity, who are trustworthy and free from any criminal charges in court,” said Muhyiddin in a statement.

He also confirmed that all 50 Perikatan MPs, of which 31 are from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, 18 from PAS, one from Sabah STAR, as well as four Perikatan-friendly independents, had handed over statutory declarations (SDs) naming Ismail Sabri as their choice to Istana Negara.

Sabri has a total of 114 MPs supporting him, with Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).

“This decision was made to ensure continuity of Perikatan policies, which have been focused on battling Covid-19 and healing the nation until the right time comes for the 15th General Election to be held.

This also means that Perikatan prioritises political stability and the people’s well-being above revenge politics and power struggles. When faced with such a situation of crisis, politicians must be magnanimous for the best interests of the people and the nation.

As Perikatan chairman, “I will continue to serve the people and get the party ready to face GE15 when the time comes,” said Muhyiddin.

He added that Ismail is appointed as the next premier, the Perikatan government under his leadership must also continue the practice of respecting the principles of separation of powers, protecting judicial independence and upholding the Constitutional Monarchy.

On Monday, Muhyiddin handed his resignation to the Yang ­di-Pertuan Agong as prime minister following the revocation of support by several Umno MPs including its president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Political observers have voiced concern over the possibility of another political crisis in the near future during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rival contender for Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, garnered 105 MPs support in direct competition with Ismail.

After the King’s meeting with various political leaders on Wednesday, Anwar told reporters that the King had emphasised the country was facing a political and constitutional crisis.

“By the look of it, all the parties seem to have come to a consensus — that is, to end ‘old politics… and focus on the development of the country,” he added. /TISG

M. Krishnamoorthy is a freelance journalist and has been a local producer for CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Australian TV networks. He has also freelanced for the New York Times, TIME, Sydney Morning Herald and worked for The Star and New Straits for 35 years. He is the author of six books and his latest May 9 — People Power Saves Malaysia — Mahathir Leads the Way, was the bestseller for five months last year following the GE 14 in Malaysia. Last year, he retired as Associate Professor at an international university.