Ismail Sabri misses opportunity to do things differently

POLITICAL observers may say that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s cabinet line-up is to ensure continuity and political stability, allowing the nation to focus its efforts on overcoming the Covid-19 and economic crises.

But the line-up is just another reflection of political realities.

Appointments to the cabinet have been but a way to reward loyalty and to assert authority as well as to build allies.

Ismail’s cabinet is no different. Political analysts have said the prime minister has his eyes set on the Umno presidency, dispensing ministerial appointments to party lawmakers not loyal to incumbent Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. The appointments will ensure that the MPs’ loyalty lies with Ismail when the party elections are held.

By appointing them, Ismail has set the stage for the party polls and put himself in pole position in the next contest for the position of party chief.

But it is a missed opportunity to be different.

The prime minister had the sword and the shield to do differently. The sword is Article 43(2)(b) of the federal constitution, which empowers the prime minister to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint any minister which the king, as a constitutional monarch, is bound to act on the advice. The power to appoint any minister is in effect with the prime minister (see the case of Dato’ Seri Anwar bin Ibrahim v Perdana Menteri Malaysia & Anor [2007] 4 MLJ 422).

The shield is the bipartisan support that the opposition leadership has promised him. Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim has said his coalition and the prime minister’s understanding was for the country to embrace more bipartisan politics. The country is moving on to more mature politics.

The most significant shield must be the king’s call for politicians to create a “new political landscape”.

Any withdrawal of support for the prime minister would be political suicide.

But despite the sword and the shield, Ismail didn’t do differently. – August 28, 2021.

* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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