Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Sunday he will invite opposition leaders to join the government’s special committees to address the COVID-19 crisis, seeking to stabilise politics after years of turmoil.
Ismail Sabri took charge on Saturday with a slim parliamentary majority as the Southeast Asian nation battles its worst COVID-19 surge and public anger grows over mismanagement of the pandemic. He brings back to power a party tainted by massive corruption allegations.
The 61-year-old was deputy premier in the administration of Muhyiddin Yassin, which collapsed on Monday due to coalition infighting - the second government to fall since general elections in 2018.
In a televised address, Ismail Sabri said he will invite opposition leaders into the National Recovery Council and the Special Committee on COVID-19.
“I understand that the political turmoil that has besieged the country has distressed the public. Therefore, it is imperative that political stability is swiftly achieved through togetherness, and this includes cross-party cooperation,” he said.
The new premier said he will enhance the previous government’s COVID-19 strategy and purchase an additional 6 million vaccine doses by early September. He was a key minister in charge of framing Malaysia’s pandemic response under Muhyiddin.
Focus on increasing purchasing power
Malaysia’s infections and deaths are southeast Asia’s highest relative to population, with the pandemic also hurting the economy. The central bank slashed its 2021 forecast twice this year.
Ismail Sabri promised to focus on increasing consumer purchasing power and reviving the private sector for economic growth.
He restores the premiership role to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which was voted out in 2018, due to widespread corruption allegations after governing the country for more than 60 years since independence.
Malaysia has been in a state of political instability since then.
Former UMNO premier Mahathir Mohamad returned in his 90s to lead an opposition to a historic victory, but his alliance collapsed from infighting.
Muhyiddin then put together a coalition with parties that had been defeated in the polls, including UMNO, but it also proved fragile, as the long-dominant party balked at playing second fiddle.
Ismail Sabri and Muhyiddin were both appointed by the country’s king, who has the constitutional power to do so, without a general election.
The politicking during the pandemic had prompted many, including the king, to call for the political parties to work together to ensure stability.
King Al-Sultan Abdullah has called for Ismail Sabri to face a confidence vote in parliament to prove his majority.