Malaysia PM to sign co-operation pact with opposition to shore up support

New Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves from a car, as he leaves after the inauguration ceremony, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Aug 21, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's coalition and the main opposition bloc will sign a cooperation pact on Monday (Sept 13) to ensure stability during the Covid-19 pandemic, an agreement that could also help the premier win a confidence vote.

Ismail Sabri took office last month with a slim parliamentary majority, becoming the third prime minister in as many years, but the constitutional monarch has called for him to face a vote of confidence to prove he has majority support in parliament.

The legislature reconvened on Monday but no date has been set for the confidence vote.

King Al-Sultan Abdullah did not mention the vote when he opened the parliament session but said he appreciated the efforts of party leaders to cooperate.

"This maturity is what my subjects want," he said.

In a joint statement late on Sunday, representatives from the government and the Pakatan Harapan opposition bloc said they had agreed to focus on "transformation initiatives and reforms".

"All parties have agreed that this memorandum of understanding is aimed at returning political stability to the country in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and revive the economy through bi-partisan cooperation," they said.

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The pact follows Ismail Sabri's offer to the opposition on Friday to introduce political reforms including laws to prevent defections and to limit a prime minister to ten years in office. 

The offer includes bipartisan agreement on every bill to be introduced in parliament, input from opposition parties on a national recovery council and immediate lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. He also said the opposition leader would get the same pay and privileges as a cabinet minister.

Malaysia has seen political instability since the election defeat in 2018 of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which had governed for more than 60 years since independence, after a string of corruption allegations.

Two governments had collapsed since then and Ismail Sabri's appointment restored the premiership role to Umno.