Ismail Sabri Yaakob is PM9

Lady Luck swipes right on Izzy

After over a year of listening to politicos plot and scheme, and wheel and deal, we’ve finally got a new prime minister.

Only it’s far from the match made in heaven Malaysia was hoping for. 

But, with 114 MPs bending the knee to the PM-designate, the Agong’s made his choice. And, pending any last-minute m̶i̶r̶a̶c̶l̶e̶ twist, by 2.30pm today, it’ll be official — Ismail “Izzy” Sabri, son of Yaakob, will be Malaysia’s 9th prime minister

He’ll be Malaysia’s 3rd prime minister, leading its 3rd government in just over 3 years!

Less than a month ago, BRIDGET WELSH wrote about how our political shenanigans would open a path for Umno to return to power. Read her prescient piece here.

How did it get to this? 

How did the minister who, quite frankly, fucked up almost every part of the country’s Covid-19 response he was tasked with overseeing, become the most powerful man in the country?

Think the F-bomb’s too harsh? Then think of the disastrous “no quarantine” rule after the Sabah polls that led to our 3rd Covid wave, the flip-flopping of SOPs, the premature lifting of travel bans, crushing RM10k fines for regular folk, and skyrocketing Covid cases.

Just a few years ago, Ismail was nothing more than a forgettable Umno minister doing the usual Umno things –  going after human rights groups, playing the “for Malays only” race card, singing the “anti-Chinese businesses” song, and that old Umno favourite — reciting the “anti-DAP” mantra.

Has there been a greater ascent from mid-level mediocrity to the highest office in the land (and the chance for some truly high-level mediocrity)? This man isn’t the chief — or even deputy chief — of his own party, but has risen to become chief of the entire nation!

No doubt his incredible climb has been helped by his (impressively short) deputy PM gig, a lack of criminal prosecutions like those bedevilling other Umno leaders, and being on the now-winning side of the big pro-Zahid/anti-Zahid Umno split.

Izzy also owes his disgraced ex-boss Muhyiddin Yassin a really fancy ‘Thank You’ hamper. After all, Moo not only plonked himself in his former deputy’s corner, but also corralled the signatures of all 54 PN-linked MPs to Izzy’s “cause”. 

But can we truly believe all this hot PN lovin’ was only on the condition that no “court cluster” leaders get a seat in Izzy’s Cabinet? Or were there more terms, conditions, caveats and codicils in this covenant? Time will tell. 

And it won’t be just Moo & Co. expecting a quid pro quo (allegedly! allegedly!). Umno sec-gen Ahmad Maslan’s already flat out said Ismail should run all policy decisions by Umno’s supreme council or political bureau. In other words, remember who your political patrons are and don’t start getting delusions of grandeur, Izzy old chap. 

For now, the easiest way we, the citizens and voters who for the 2nd time in as many years have been screwed out of picking our gomen, will be able to guess and theorise about what deals were struck will be to look at the makeup of Izzy’s Cabinet.

Will Izzy choose his lieutenants based on merit or will he, like Muhyiddin, anoint his chosen ones based on political tradeoffs? 

His selections, especially for key portfolios such as health, finance, defence, education and home affairs, will reveal his nature and indicate just how serious he is about seeing us out of our Covid purgatory.

Equally important: Will he heed the Agong’s call and extend an olive branch to the opposition for the sake of political stability. Now that he’s got his big man pants on, will he be the bigger man or will he bow to the shrill voices within his party that scream “No DAP, no Anwar”?

His choices over the coming days and weeks will be revealing – after all, the measure of a man is what he does with power. 

Whatever happens, for better or worse, fate has looked with favour upon the son of Yaakob. Here’s wishing you the best of luck, Izzy – for your sake, but more importantly, for ours.

Artist of the Month
Shazeera Ahmad Zawawi
Shazeera’s a human rights advocate and visual storyteller working in Switzerland. She’s a self-taught artist producing wicked comics and cartoons for national, regional and international non-profit organisations and exhibitions. See more about her here.

Eksentrika is a community portal dedicated to Malaysia's arts and culture. Since 2016, it's served as a resource for insightful, informative, and practical guides related to the creative fields. Their Artist Registry hosts hundreds of talents across multiple disciplines and countries in Asia; they also publicise arts and culture events.

Eksentrika aims to nurture a thriving arts ecosystem and facilitate connections between the arts community and partners across the globe.

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