Ismail Sabri, the country’s third prime minister in 3 years, has officially taken over from Muhyiddin Yassin, whose government collapsed after Sabri’s political party pulled its support. While Muhyiddin is now Malaysia’s shortest serving prime minister, his record of 17 months in power could be broken anytime if there are new plots to overthrow the newly installed PM Sabri.
Even before “Turtle Egg” Sabri was sworn in as the 9th Prime Minister on Saturday (August 21), the tussle has already begun for power and position, especially for the deputy prime minister. Not only there are fights for the No. 2 within Muhyiddin’s party Bersatu, it also happens among political parties that agreed to work again in the new “old-wine-in-new-bottle” government.
While foreign news media could not understand why former Prime Minister Mahiaddin would support the same party that toppled him just two days ago, the reason is pretty simple – common interest. Muhyiddin’s Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) and Ismail’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) are like two parasites which need each other to stay in power.
But cracks were visible when the new government could not even agree whether it is still the same “Perikatan Nasional” government, despite all the 114 MPs who support PM Sabri are the same lawmakers who used to support Muhyiddin. Bersatu has claimed it’s still the same government because the majority of the MPs supporting Ismail Sabri come from Perikatan Nasional, who has 54 MPs.
However, UMNO gave Bersatu the middle-finger, arguing that the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional had never been a Perikatan Nasional component party from the beginning. Therefore, the loosely glued Perikatan Nasional government of Muhyiddin was dead the moment the former premier resigned last Monday (August 16), never mind UMNO has only the support of 41 MPs.
Apparently, the name of the government was so important that Bersatu president Muhyiddin had to call a special meeting during the weekend with top Perikatan Nasional coalition leaders, including an ailing PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. After losing the powerful prime minister position, it was important for Bersatu to assert its dominance, reminding PM Sabri who calls the shot.
Hence, it will be a delicate balancing act for Ismail Sabri to maintain his incredibly fragile coalition in order not to lose power in a matter of months, or even weeks. With the first meeting of the Fourth Session of the 14th Parliament scheduled to sit for 15 days from Sept 6 to 30, during which the newly minted prime minister has to test his legitimacy, all eyes are on his Cabinet.
While negotiations are still ongoing for positions among the power-crazy component parties, a draft of Sabri Cabinet has leaked. As competitions and disagreements over the deputy prime minister continues, PM Ismail Sabri is expected to announce his Cabinet without naming any candidate for the No. 2, something that his predecessor Muhyiddin had done previously.
There will be 30 ministries, including the prime minister, a reduction of only 2 compared to Muhyiddin’s 32 portfolios. Unlike now-collapsed Perikatan Nasional regime, there will be no Senior Ministers, a political chess game to unfairly reward Muhyiddin’s loyalists that eventually led to unhappiness and rebellion in UMNO, who ultimately overthrew their own government.
To create an impression of a slim down Cabinet, all deputy ministers will be left vacant, at least temporarily as the new prime minister is under tremendous pressure to finalize a better and sexier Cabinet to handle Covid-19 pandemic and manage the economy. Under Muhyiddin administration, people were angry over the super bloated Cabinet of 73 ministers and deputy ministers.
As expected, UMNO will take away from Bersatu the lucrative and vital ministries such as Finance, Education, Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, while at the same time retains Defence, Federal Territories and Foreign Affairs portfolios. UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition will monopolize 12 out of the 30 ministries (including the Prime Minister Office) – 40% of the Cabinet.
Previously, Muhyiddin’s Cabinet also dominated 12 out of the 32 ministries. In a tit-for-tat, Bersatu is expected to be given 9 ministries, the exact number of ministries allocated for UMNO during Muhyiddin’s administration. In return for losing the ministries of finance, education, rural development, housing & local government, and special function (PMO), Bersatu will get some junk ministries.
Bersatu will get the economy portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office (Mustapa Mohamed), Home Minister (Hamzah Zainuddin), Communications and Multimedia (Ahmad Faizal Azumu), Health Minister (Sahruddin Jamal), International Trade and Industry (Ronald Kiandee), Social Welfare (Rina Harun), Agriculture (Radzi Jidin), Domestic Trade (Azmin Ali) and Energy & Natural Resources (Zuraida Kamaruddin).
So, not only Bersatu’s previous 12 ministries will be reduced to 9, the party will only maintain 6 of its previous portfolios namely MITI (international trade and industry), social welfare and family development, home affairs, agriculture, communications & multimedia, and economy portfolio in the PM’s Department. The other 3 new ministries for the party are actually a downgrade.
Azmin Ali, the supposedly de-facto Deputy PM of then-PM Muhyiddin, would be demoted to the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry from his previous powerful and lucrative Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The bad blood between Azmin Ali and Ismail Sabri during the previous administration has now turned from bad to worse.
Ronald Kiandee, formerly Agriculture Minister, will be promoted to MITI instead. Radzi Jidin, a member of Bersatu who was appointed as a Senator, is to be demoted in line with his incompetence during his tenure as education minister to assume Kiandee’s previous agriculture ministry. Another traitor who will be demoted is Zuraida Kamaruddin.
Like Azmin, Zuraida is another most-hated traitor who betrayed her own PKR party and toppled the democratically elected Pakatan Harapan government. She will be demoted to take care of energy and natural resources. Her previous vital housing and local government ministry will be given to Maximus Ongkili (who previously served as Minister of Sabah and Sarawak Affairs).
Non-performing Bersatu top guns like “flying car” Redzuan (Minister of Special Functions in the PM’s Department), Tengku Zafrul (Minister of Finance), Latiff Ahmad (Minister of Rural Development) and Saifuddin Abdullah (Minister of Communications) will be jobless under Sabri’s new Cabinet. Former Perak Chief Minister Ahmad Azumu, thanks to his seniority in the party, will be the new minister of communications.
In short, only 3 Bersatu MPs will retain their previous ministries – Mustapa Mohamed, Hamzah Zainuddin and “Doraemon” Rina Harun. This means the deputy prime minister, if it ever happens, will be a contest between Hamzah and Mustapa within Bersatu. This also reflects our previous article that there is more synergy between Sabri-Hamzah tag-team than Hishammuddin-Azmin.
If the draft is indeed a final list of Sabri’s Cabinet, it also means that the prime minister is under heavy influence of UMNO president Zahid Hamidi and former PM Najib Razak. That’s because 4 UMNO leaders aligned to Zahid and Najib will be appointed as Senators to become ministers, namely Zamry Abdul Kadir, Johari Ghani, Mohamad Hasan and Khaled Nordin.
Former Perak Chief Minister Zamry Kadir will be in charge of Religious Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department (taking over from Muhyiddin’s political appointee Zulkifli Al-Bakri). Johari, meanwhile, is set to snatch the job as Minister of Federal Territories from Annuar Musa, the UMNO rebel and Muhyiddin cheerleader who had bet the wrong horse during the UMNO-Bersatu civil war.
Mohamad Hasan, UMNO deputy president who has loyally stood behind his party against Bersatu, will take the grand prize – Ministry of Finance. Likewise, one of Muhyiddin’s loudest critics, Khaled Nordin, will also get senatorship to assume PM Sabri’s previous role as the defence minister. These 4 UMNO warlords alone represent one third of 12 ministers from UMNO.
Mohamad Alamin, one of two UMNO MPs in Sabah (the other is Bung Moktar Radin) who declared as early as July 8 that they will withdraw support for Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional in compliance with the party’s decision to reject the federal government, will become the new education minister, taking over from Bersatu Radzi Jidin.
Likewise, Noraini Ahmad and Shamsul Anuar, who resigned as higher education and energy & natural resources minister respectively under Muhyiddin administration, will be rewarded for their loyalty. Noraini is to become Entrepreneur Minister and Shamsul as Youth and Sports Minister. Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman will take over Law Minister from the clueless PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan.
Hence, two-thirds majority (8 of 12 Barisan Nasional MPs) new ministers are aligned to Zahid and Najib faction, leaving only Ismail Sabri and Hishammuddin Hussein in the UMNO team who were pro-Muhyiddin. Unlike Hishammuddin, the cousin Najib who cowardly and cleverly kept his mouth shut, Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had publicly questioned Zahid’s trustworthiness.
For that, Hishammuddin will keep his Foreign Affairs Ministry, while Khairy will be jobless. Khairy’s science, technology and innovation ministry will be given to Gerakan president Dominic Lau, who will be appointed a Senator because his party was practically wiped out in the 2018 General Election. MCA chief Wee Ka Siong will maintain his party’s traditional transport minister.
MIC’s only remaining MP, Saravanan (formerly human resources minister) and PAS controversial MP Khairuddin Razali (formerly plantation industries and commodities minister) will swap portfolios. Obviously, it was a promotion for MIC to swing its loyalty, and a demotion for PAS to teach the Islamist party a lesson for its betrayal against UMNO-PAS Muafakat Nasional alliance.
Sarawak-based GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) will gain very little. They will get the same number of ministries. Nancy Shukri will retain her tourism, arts and culture ministry. Because UMNO has taken away entrepreneur ministry from Junaidi, his replacement is the ministry of works previously parked under Fadillah Yusof, one of 4 Senior Ministers during Muhyiddin administration.
To make Fadillah happy, the Rural Development Ministry seized from Bersatu will be given to him. Alexander Nanta Linggi, after losing his Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to Azmin Ali, will take over Bersatu Redzuan’s Minister of Special Functions. But if you think what GPS is getting is horrible, despite its contribution, wait till you see what UMNO has prepared for PAS.
PAS’ portfolios of 3 ministries will be entirely different. Not only Takiyuddin is toast, the Islamist party will also get a junk ministry – Minister of Social Unity and National Integration – for its vice-president Idris Ahmad as a consolation prize for losing law minister. Khairuddin’s human resources ministry is also a humiliation compared to the previous plantation industries and commodities ministry.
The only trophy worth mentioning is Tuan Ibrahim’s new portfolio – higher education ministry. But even then, it’s not rocket science that the PAS leader does not have the intellectual skills or common sense to handle the new ministry, which could see university students retaliate against PAS. The hilarious part is PAS president Hadi Awang will lose his Special Envoy to the Middle East (with ministerial rank).
The most unwanted job – Health Minister – will be transferred from Adham Baba (UMNO) to Sahruddin Jamal (Bersatu), the former Johor Chief Minister who will be made a Senator. The new Cabinet will see several UMNO MPs losing their jobs – Adham Baba, Annuar Musa, Khairy Jamaluddin, Reezal Merican and Halimah Sadique, all of whom were either incompetent or had bet the wrong horse.
Ismail Sabri could have been advised to keep the deputy prime minister and all the deputy ministers vacant as bargaining chips to buy loyalty at a later stage. It is also a strategy to prevent a premature collapse of his government before the coming vote of confidence. And of course, the list of Cabinet could be leaked deliberately to test the water and gauge reactions from fellow allies.
Source : Finance Twitter