Wednesday (October 12th): Ismail calls for snap elections in Malaysia

Ismail Sabri Yaakob
Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Name? Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Westphalian identity? Malaysian

Age? 62

Why is he in the news? Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri has dissolved parliament and pushed for an early election amidst months of political instability. Although an election was not scheduled until 2023, Ismail has been under pressure from his ruling coalition to call for one sooner and (hopefully) secure a greater mandate. Regardless, the decision to dissolve makes Ismail the shortest serving Prime Minister in Malaysian history.  

Why do we care? In 2018, the United Malays National Unity Organization (UMNO) was pushed out of power for the first time in sixty years and has been slowly crawling back to power ever since. The UMNO is hoping that the snap elections called by Ismail, in the heat of monsoon season, will help to consolidate its political strength and truly take charge again. 

Why should you care? Malaysia has had three prime ministers since the 2018 election, with Ismail being the latest. With a constantly changing coalition government, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain a stable foreign policy. Given the increasingly volatile nature of Southeast Asia (think Myanmar junta, Duterte in the Philippines and flooding in Bangladesh), you should care 6/10 about the political stability of Malaysia. 

Who else cares? Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and the National Unity Government (NUG) in Myanmar. Malaysia’s current Foreign Minister Saifuddin has emerged as the most energetic Southeast Asian voice on the crisis in Myanmar. He has continuously urged ASEAN to approach the Junta more realistically as well as meet with the NUG publicly. Unfortunately for the NUG, there is no guarantee that Saifuddin will maintain his position beyond the upcoming Malaysian election and even more so, the upcoming ASEAN summit.

Any further comments? Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 97-year-old former leader, announced he would defend his seat in the upcoming general elections, however, he is unlikely to resume the role of prime minister.

Sarah McFadden

General Coordinator