Barely a month in power, Malaysia’s new leader won opposition support to consolidate his fragile government in exchange for a series of reforms when parliament reopens
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Barely a month in office, Malaysia’s new leader won opposition support to shore up his fragile government in exchange for a series of reforms when parliament reopened on Monday.
The pact will give Ismail the support of 88 lawmakers in the Anwar bloc, in addition to the 114 who back him in the 222-member house.
The government and the Anwar alliance said in a joint statement on Sunday evening that their bipartisan cooperation “will restore political stability to the country to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and revive the economy.” They said they would focus on strengthening governance and parliamentary reforms.
The move came after Ismail proposed reforms last week, including new laws to prevent party defections and limit the prime minister’s tenure to 10 years. He also pledged to immediately lower the minimum age for voting from 21 to 18, secure bipartisan agreement on any new bills and seek the opposition’s opinion on the country’s economic recovery. He also ensured that the role of Leader of the Opposition received the same pay and privileges as a cabinet minister.
Malaysia has recorded nearly two million COVID-19 infections, with more than 20,000 deaths despite a lockdown since June that has hurt the economy.
Ismail is the third Malaysian prime minister since a landmark 2018 vote toppled the corrupt United Malaysian National Organization, which had ruled Malaysia since gaining independence from Britain in 1957. But massive defections sparked the collapse of the reformist alliance of Anwar.
Muhyiddin Yassin formed a new government that included UMNO in March 2020, but resigned on August 16 as infighting within his coalition cost him majority support. Ismail, who is from UMNO, was Muhyiddin’s deputy in the previous government and his appointment returned the post of prime minister to UMNO.
“It’s that kind of maturity that is sought after by people,” he said. “Too many people have been affected by the pandemic and too many have lost their sources of income. “
The monarch called for a minute’s silence in memory of virus victims and warned lawmakers not to gamble the country’s future for their own political interests.