Can Malaysia's new Prime Minister end the political crisis?

By Donald Greenlees, Senior Adviser, Asialink,
and James Chin, Professor, Asian Studies – University of Tasmania,
and Hadi Azmi, Journalist

On Friday, Malaysia appointed a new Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, following the resignation of Muhyiddin Yassin at the start of the week.

But the appointment of the third prime minister in as many years by the King, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, is not likely to end Malaysia’s rolling political crisis.

Ismail Sabri’s appointment returns the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to power just over three years after being rejected by voters in the fallout of the multi-billion 1MDB graft scandal.

The new Prime Minister is likely to have only a few months to get the government’s house in order, including stepping up measures to meet the economic and health threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, before going to the polls to obtain a fresh mandate from the people.

Meanwhile, the health crises play out against the backdrop of growing pressure to undertake fundamental reforms to Malaysia’s political system to reduce the power of Malay elites and forge greater ethnic and religious inclusion.

In the hours before the announcement of Ismail Sabri, Asialink senior adviser Donald Greenlees hosted a discussion with two Malaysia experts, Professor James Chin, the Chair of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, and Kuala Lumpur-based journalist Hadi Azmi.

Banner image: Malaysian PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob greets press following a meeting with the King at the Royal Palace, in which he was appointed the country's ninth prime minister. Credit: zmpixes, Shutterstock.