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Ismail less savvy about PM-ship than Muhyiddin, says Mahathir

Malaysia's longest serving prime minister gives his views on the man who succeeded him in Putrajaya, and the man who succeeded him in turn.

Danisyah Dalily
2 minute read
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks in an interview with MalaysiaNow at his residence in Sri Kembangan, Kuala Lumpur.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks in an interview with MalaysiaNow at his residence in Sri Kembangan, Kuala Lumpur.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has less experience and knowledge about how to lead a country than his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin, according to Malaysia’s longest serving leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir, who held the nation’s top office for two tenures across a total of 24 years, said Muhyiddin was more experienced than Ismail as he had held positions in various government ministries including as deputy prime minister before being sacked in 2015.

“Muhyiddin might have the experience but it was Ismail who became prime minister this time,” he said in an interview with MalaysiaNow.

“He is used to being a minister so he has less experience and knowledge than those who are used to being prime minister, and who have equipped themselves with the knowledge that comes with years. Their performance is better,” he added.

Ismail was sworn in as prime minister on Aug 21 after Muhyiddin lost his fragile majority due to a group of MPs from Umno known as the “court cluster” who, led by former prime minister Najib Razak and party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, withdrew their support for him.

Before becoming prime minister, Ismail had held the position of deputy prime minister for about two months. He was also the senior minister in charge of the defence portfolio for a year and five months under Muhyiddin’s leadership.

Muhyiddin meanwhile held a variety of portfolios before becoming prime minister, including home affairs, education, international trade and industry and agriculture.

He was also menteri besar of Johor from 1986 to 1995.

Together, he and Mahathir formed Bersatu in 2016 to counter Umno, led by Najib who was then embroiled in the 1MDB scandal.

Bersatu worked with PKR, DAP and Amanah in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition which succeeded in toppling Najib at the historic general election on May 9, 2018.

However, the PH government collapsed after 22 months due to internal pressure on Mahathir to resign as prime minister and make way for PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as agreed.

Mahathir’s resignation in February last year triggered the fall of the PH administration. It was succeeded by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Muhyiddin which saw Umno’s return to federal power.

However, Mahathir and several other MPs refused to join the PN government, instead forming the Pejuang bloc.