Malaysia’s Search for Next Leader Yields Two Frontrunners


Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional alliance has chosen former deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the bloc’s choice for prime minister, Ahmad Maslan, secretary general of the United Malays National Organisation said in a tweet.

“Only one name as prime minister candidate was sent by UMNO/BN MPs on 17/8/21 which is Ismail Sabri, MP for Bera,” he wrote on Wednesday. The Pan-Malaysian Islamic party has also rallied behind him, Malaysiakini reported, citing party Deputy President Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

Ismail Sabri was deputy prime minister in former premier Muhyiddin Yassin’s coalition. As a leading figure in Malaysia’s battle against the pandemic, he appeared almost daily in televised press briefings to update the public on movement restrictions. Still, virus cases continued to sky-rocket as the government oscillated between tightening and loosening restrictions on movements.

Lawmakers from the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition are backing Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, Fahmi Fadzil, communications director for the People’s Justice Party, told Bloomberg News. The Sabah-based Warisan party, which is not a part of the alliance, will support Anwar as well, according to Borneo Post, which cited president Shafie Apdal.

Malaysia’s lawmakers must submit their choice for a leader to the palace by 4 p.m. local time Wednesday as the king searches for a successor to Muhyiddin Yassin, who resigned on Monday. Muhyiddin is staying on as a caretaker prime minister until a new leader is named.

The king is expected to meet with the nation’s other royal rulers on Friday to discuss the new prime minister candidates, according to a statement from the palace. Once appointed by the monarch, the new premier should table a confidence vote in parliament as soon as possible to legitimize his majority, the statement added.

Under constitutional law, any lawmaker who can command a majority in parliament can stake a claim to form the government, and the king needs to give his assent to formalize the appointment.

UMNO Youth leader Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said he informed the party’s supreme council meeting last night that the prime minister candidate should not attempt to retain the structure of Muhyiddin’s cabinet. The new cabinet must work together with all political parties to tackle the pandemic and revive the country until an election is called, he wrote on Facebook.