ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon Twitter
The Nikkei View

Malaysia must quickly stabilize its political situation

Once pandemic is under control, government should determine people's will through election

Ismail Sabri Yaakob sits at his desk on his first day of work as prime minister, in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Aug. 23.   © Malaysia Department of Information via AP

Former Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been sworn in as the ninth premier of Malaysia. The new leader faces the daunting task of bringing the coronavirus pandemic under control and stabilizing a nation wracked by political turmoil for years due to a bitter power struggle between the ruling and opposition parties.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the previous leader, resigned with his cabinet on Aug. 16, saying he had lost the support of the majority of parliament after being criticized for failing to control the pandemic and for disregarding parliament. The ruling coalition has been beset by a series of defections since July.

King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin appointed Ismail Sabri to the prime ministership after the politician received support from 114 of the 220 lower house lawmakers. The king had the lower house lawmakers recommend a candidate for the top spot, as the country's constitution states that the king appoint as leader a lower house member believed to command majority support.

While the structure of the ruling coalition remains intact, the grouping holds only a slim majority in parliament. The new government rests on a weak foundation, which makes forming and managing a cabinet a delicate task.

Malaysia is still recording about 20,000 new coronavirus cases each day. The medical system is strained and the manufacturing sector has been impacted, slowing the country's economic recovery. The new prime minister must promptly put the government back on track and avoid another political vacuum.

Malaysia experienced an unprecedented change of government in 2018 when the long-ruling United Malays National Organisation was defeated in a general election. UMNO lost that poll amid suspicions of corruption, especially the embezzlement scandal involving the state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) -- a result that proved the country's democracy was alive and well.

However, political infighting and shifting loyalties in the new coalition continued after the change of government, and the leadership lost touch with the voters who elected it. Both Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin had to resign as prime minister after a short period of time.

Ismail Sabri is a member of UMNO, meaning a member of the party that lost power has returned to the Prime Minister's Office without any new elections. The government must determine the will of the people. To that end, the country should hold a general election once the pandemic is brought under control. That will serve an important path to demonstrating and ensuring that Malaysia's democracy remains intact.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends October 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to Nikkei Asia has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media

Nikkei Asian Review, now known as Nikkei Asia, will be the voice of the Asian Century.

Celebrate our next chapter
Free access for everyone - Sep. 30

Find out more