Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin today confirmed former deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the coalition’s candidate of choice for the country’s top office, on condition that his Cabinet does not include those who are facing criminal charges in court.
“If appointed as prime minister by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, he must ensure that his Cabinet members will be composed of those with integrity, who are trustworthy and who are free from any criminal charges in court,” he said in a statement.
The former prime minister, who said he was forced out of office due to a group of kleptocrats scheming to escape corruption charges, said all 50 MPs from PN comprising 31 from Bersatu, 18 from PAS and one from STAR had stated their support for Ismail.
“Four independent MPs who are pro-PN have also done the same.”
Ismail was among the Umno leaders and Cabinet members who had refused to join their party bosses Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in campaigning for Muhyiddin’s ouster by revoking their support for him.
Najib and Zahid are part of the so-called court cluster group made up of Umno leaders who were part of the Barisan Nasional government before its downfall in 2018.
In July last year, Najib was convicted of seven charges related to the misappropriation of RM42 million from a company linked to 1MDB.
He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million.
Zahid meanwhile faces more than 80 charges of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and bribery.
MalaysiaNow previously reported in detail how Zahid had approached Muhyiddin in a bid to get his charges dropped.
Muhyiddin said the decision to support Ismail was made in order to ensure the continuity of PN’s principles prioritising efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and restore the country until a suitable time for a general election to return the mandate to the people.
He said any PN government under Ismail’s leadership must also continue the practice of respecting the separation of powers, protecting the freedom of the judiciary, and upholding the constitutional monarchy.