‘Ismail Sabri enjoying honeymoon period, but for how long?’

Ahead of Parliament session, PM looks to be working well with opposition but Umno faction could herald trouble

(The Vibes) – Unlike ousted leader Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who faced stiff opposition in the Dewan Rakyat, a political observer foresees newly minted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob enjoying an easier time in the lower House.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said this “honeymoon” period for Bera MP Ismail Sabri will not last long once political expediency or pressure from other factions within the ruling administration come into play.

“After what has been revealed over the past few days, that Ismail Sabri is going to table all these wonderful-sounding reform proposals for parliamentary and political reforms, it looks like both sides are happily talking to each other.

“I frankly think they are in their honeymoon period. The opposition thinks it can push through with the reforms, but I think this will be a short-lived honeymoon,” Oh told The Vibes.

Last Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office had issued a statement outlining Ismail Sabri’s plan to reform the political landscape to ensure political stability while Putrajaya continues to address Covid-19 and the resulting economic backlash.

The seven reforms are:

1. Tabling an anti-hopping bill in Parliament;

2. Implementing Undi18 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 in the near future, and tabling relevant amendments to the federal constitution in Parliament;

3. Amending the constitution to limit the tenure of the prime minister to 10 years;

4. Ensuring balanced representation from the government and opposition in parliamentary Special Select Committees;

5. Ensuring all bills to be presented in Parliament, including the federal Budget, are negotiated and agreed upon by all parties;

6. Including opposition MPs in the National Recovery Council to obtain their views and recommendations; and,

7. Providing the opposition leader with remuneration and facilities enjoyed by ministers.

Following his announcement, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim voiced his support and welcomed the proposed reforms that he said were in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) 2018 election manifesto.

Early last year, the Sheraton Move had robbed PH of its opportunity to see its proposals through. Ismail Sabri’s proposals are similar to the ones Muhyiddin proposed days before he resigned.

The only difference is that the reforms and cooperation with PH were among the first things Ismail Sabri offered after taking office. Optics-wise, it is not seen as a last-ditch attempt to remain in power.

Unlike Muhyiddin’s attempts, the PH presidential council agreed to cooperate with the new prime minister. A memorandum of understanding will be signed by the new prime minister and PH leaders at 5pm today in the Parliament banquet hall.

However, Oh does not believe that this truce will last due to the political dynamics in the country, particularly the polarities between Umno’s Muafakat Nasional ally PAS and the more liberal opposition.

“Ismail Sabri will have to appease, at least temporarily, the mainstream faction in Umno. He must also appease the demands of an increasingly strident PAS, which is trying to push for legislation to control non-Islamic religions.

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