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New Malaysian Prime Minister, Opposition Leader Sign Cooperation Deal

By VOA News September 13, 2021

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob Monday signed a cooperation deal with the main opposition bloc, aimed at ensuring the stability of his new government.

Under the accord between Prime Minister Ismail and veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Ismail has agreed to a set of reforms including new laws to prevent party defections, limiting the prime minister's term to 10 years, and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

The agreement also ensures bipartisan agreement on every bill that is introduced in parliament, input from the opposition on a national recovery council, and an assurance that the opposition leader receives the same pay and privileges as a Cabinet minister.

Ismail said in a statement that the agreement will lead to bipartisan cooperation, help the government fight the COVID-19 crisis and revive the economy.

"The government is confident that this will not only see political differences being put aside but also ensure the national recovery will be inclusive and holistic," he said.

Ismail became Malaysia's third prime minister in three years when he was appointed by King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah last month to succeed Muhyiddin Yassin. Muhyiddin resigned after conceding he had lost the majority of lawmakers. Ismail served as deputy prime minister under Muhyiddin.

The king praised the bipartisan cooperation deal in an address to parliament Monday.

"It is this kind of maturity that is craved by the people," he said.

The king selected Muhyiddin as prime minister in March 2020 after the collapse of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's ruling coalition a month earlier. But Muhyiddin was beset by constant challenges to his leadership within his fragile coalition and rising anger over his government's poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country of 32 million is suffering the highest rate of new daily cases per one million people in Southeast Asia, with more than 1.9 million infections and 20,711 deaths currently, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Muhyiddin's tenuous grip on power began unraveling when a group of lawmakers with the United Malays National Organization, the largest party in the coalition, withdrew their support. UMNO, once Malaysia's long-serving ruling party dating to the country's independence in 1957, has a handful of politicians facing corruption charges, including former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Muhyiddin's 17-month tenure as prime minister is the shortest in Malaysian history.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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