Ismail Sabri Yaakob is M'sia's new PM

The race is over.

Jean Chien Tay | August 20, 2021, 05:07 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

After weeks of political ambiguity, the race for Malaysia's next prime minister has finally come to an end.

In an announcement by the Istana Negara (National Palace), Ismail Sabri Yaakob will take the helm of the country as the ninth prime minister.

The announcement was confirmed by Malaysia's ex-foreign minister Hishammuddin Hussein as well.

To be sworn in on Saturday

Emerging from the conference of rulers with other sultans, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Malaysian King) confirmed the new appointment.

The appointment of Ismail Sabri marks a comeback for his party, UMNO, which lost the prime minister's seat in 2018 after 60 years of being in charge.

Their defeat was largely due to corruption allegations linked to 1MDB (Malaysia's state fund), reported Malaysiakini.

The 61-year-old reportedly has the support of 114 lawmakers, and has since secured a simple majority of the 220 seats in parliament.

He will be sworn in as prime minister at 2:30pm on Saturday, Aug. 21.

Taking over the top seat in challenging times amid a raging Covid-19 pandemic, Ismail Sabri will also have to face a vote of confidence "as soon as possible", according to a statement published by the Istana Negara (national palace).

The vote of confidence is to ascertain that the newly appointed prime minister has majority support from the members of parliament (MPs).

Previously on Thursday (Aug. 19), caretaker prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin had released a statement saying that the support of 50 members from his coalition (Perikatan Nasional) comes with the condition that Sabri will not appoint any minister with criminal charges.

There are currently seven MPs from UMNO who are facing criminal charges, with UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak among them.

The man from Temerloh, Pahang

Born in Temerloh, Pahang, Sabri graduated with a law degree from the University of Malaya in 1980.

He kickstarted his political career in 1987 as a local district council member in his hometown, Temerloh.

Sabri ascended through the ranks and was appointed as the Political Secretary to then Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, Sabbaruddin Chik in 1995.

In 2004, he became the head of UMNO's Temerloh Division, and was elected to parliament the same year for the seat of Bera.

Served five terms under three prime ministers

After securing his re-election in 2008, he held 4 different ministerial roles up till the collapse of UMNO in 2018.

Ismail Sabri survived the transition of power from Abdullah Badawi to Najib Razak as the premier, and subsequently found his way into Muhyiddin's administration after UMNO lost power in 2018.

The man from Pahang took over as deputy president of UMNO in 2018, as his predecessor  Ahmad Zahid Hamidi rose to the seat of president, as per Malaysiakini.

After the "Sheraton Move", which led to the collapse of the ruling coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), UMNO joined forces with Muhyiddin's Bersatu to form the new ruling coalition -- Perikatan Nasional (PN).

In Mar. 2020, Sabri was appointed as Senior Minister (security cluster) and Defence Minister, and was tasked with handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Then in July, he became the deputy prime minister under Muhyiddin, which ended when Muhyiddin resigned, making him the shortest-lived deputy prime minister in Malaysian history.

Controversies with alleged racial nature

The newly appointed prime minister is not without his fair share controversies, some of which carry an alleged racial nature.

In a high profile debacle in Feb. 2015, Sabri reportedly told Malays to leverage on their numbers as the majority of Malaysian consumers and boycott Chinese businesses, saying that it will force them to reduce the prices of their goods, as per Astro Awani.

August of that same year, he proposed to establish a digital mall "especially for Malay businessmen", reported Astro Awani.

Sabri once again made headlines for the wrong reasons in Nov. 2015, this time for allegedly consuming turtle eggs at an event in Sabah, which is illegal, reported Malaysiakini.

Over 343k Malaysians rejecting him even before his appointment

Right before his appointment, over 343,000 Malaysians signed a petition to reject Sabri as their next prime minister.

Apart from his previous controversies, the petition highlighted his alleged "mishandling" of the Covid-19 pandemic during his tenure as Defence Minister under the Muhyiddin administration.

Tensions within UMNO

Sabri stood by the Muhyiddin administration even when his own party, UMNO, withdrew support for the PN coalition, which caused some tension in the party initially.

UMNO president Zahid threatened "consequences" for Sabri's defiance of the party's wishes, reported The Star.

However, the duo seems to have patched things up as UMNO ultimately threw their support behind Sabri as their prime minister candidate, as per Malaysiakini.

Top image via Ismail Sabri/Facebook

Follow and listen to our podcast here