Senior politicians from Umno, the country’s longest-ruling party, may lose credibility for mishandling the pandemic.

Malaysia’s Ismail Sabri Yaakob was sworn in as the country’s ninth prime minister on Saturday, ending a week of political unrest. Due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, his predecessor Forced to resign during ongoing health emergencies.

Ismail Sabri is a senior politician of the country’s longest ruling party, the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), but analysts say he is a stopgap leader who has little chance to end the long-term turmoil.

After Muhyiddin Yassin’s government collapsed this week, the 61-year-old was appointed prime minister on Friday. He is Malaysia’s third new leader in less than four years.

Ismail Sabri comes from Umno, the main party in the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for decades after independence from the United Kingdom.

For most of his career, he was relatively low-key, but his reputation was even more prominent during Muhyiddin’s 17 months in power.

As Minister of Defense, he gave daily briefings on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister in the last few days of the government.

Analysts say that compared with the chaotic Muhyiddin era, his connections between different factions may allow the new government to gain slightly stronger support in parliament.

Bridge between different camps

Ismail Sabri is “a bridge between different camps” [Muhyiddin’s party] With Umno-this person is in the right place,” said Bridget Wales, a Malaysian expert from the University of Nottingham.

But his government is actually an enlarged version of the government that has just collapsed-Muhyiddin and his allies support him-and he has not yet been elected by the public.

The king chooses the prime minister based on who has the most support in Parliament, not because he is worried that this will exacerbate the terrible virus outbreak.

“Covid mismanagement”

Since he was a key figure in overseeing the widely criticized pandemic response of the previous government, he is likely to face constant attacks from the opposition and may lose credibility at the beginning of his term.

Welsh said: “He is… a leader in COVID mismanagement.” “People think these policies are not very effective.”

Umno was expelled by voters on corruption charges in 2018, but as part of the Muhyiddin government, they managed to regain a foothold. Analysts warned that the party’s regaining leadership without an election might arouse public outrage.

Ismail Sabri, from the eastern state of Pahang, was a lawyer before entering politics. He has held cabinet positions such as the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Rural Development.

As a Malay-Muslim majority member of the country, he has sometimes been criticized for inciting racial tensions, causing controversy.

According to reports, in 2019, during the opposition period, he called on Muslims to launch a “jihad” against the then ruling coalition (racial diversity) and accused it of being anti-Islam.

Race and religion are very sensitive in Malaysia. About 60% of Malaysia’s 32 million population are Malays, but it is also home to a large number of Chinese and Indian minorities.

In the end, Ismail Sabri may only become a short-term leader.

“Under normal circumstances, he won’t have a chance,” said James Chin, a Malaysian analyst at the University of Tasmania.

“Unless he is qualified for the job, he will only stay there until the next general election.”

In an interview with the national news agency Bernama published on Saturday, the new prime minister’s son Nashrik Ismail Sabri appealed to the public to give his father a chance to “prove that he is capable of leading the country”.

“This is not an easy task, but we believe that he will do his best to restore our country,” Nashrik Ismail said.

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