The Muhyiddin dilemma – where does Ismail Sabri fit him in?

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As Ismail Sabri Yaakob assumes the role of the country’s ninth prime minister, he will have to address the elephant in the room – his ex-boss Muhyiddin Yassin.

Political analyst Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk said both of them will have to withstand an extremely awkward situation, given that Umno wanted Muhyiddin out and yet at the same time, the erstwhile prime minister currently holds the largest number of MPs on the government bench.


He said Ismail will have a tough time placing the Pagoh MP, as he cannot play second fiddle in a ministerial role, being both Bersatu and Perikatan Nasional chief.

Azeem said that even if Ismail wanted to place Muhyiddin in a senior role in the Cabinet, he could face the wrath of factions in Umno who wanted Muhyiddin ousted.

He said this was further made difficult with Umno rumoured to have pushed party veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah as top choice for PM, which was an indication of factions within Umno, where Ismail is vice-president.

“So, bringing Muhyiddin back into the fold can be troublesome and Ismail runs the risk of further widening the rift within the factions in Umno.

“Will Ismail appoint Muhyiddin as a senior minister or minister mentor? We must remember that a minister mentor role has never existed in our Malaysian political culture, unlike in Singapore.

“This is one of many dilemmas our new PM has to face,” the Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Policy Research and International Studies director told FMT.

Azeem said Ismail will also have to face a power play as he takes the helm as premier, as PN has 51 MPs while Barisan Nasional only has 41, with 38 from Umno.

He said that while the Bera MP would likely survive a floor vote in Parliament given he has the support of 114 MPs, it could be shaky in the coming months, as the past Muhyiddin administration will be surviving on a razor-thin majority.

“While Umno is back in power, the balance of power is not as per pre-2018. So, this will naturally elicit the question: is this government on solid footing in terms of power?

“To remedy this, it will require the PM to make a lot of negotiations and compromises, as it is uncertain if Umno will get its way as it lacks the numbers in Parliament.

“Or else we are looking at a house of cards – just a little wind and it will crumble,” he said. – FMT