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New Malaysian Prime Minister, Opposition Leader to Sign Cooperation Deal 

In this photo released by Malaysia's Department of Information, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, center, and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, left, sign documents during a ceremony at the parliament house in Kuala Lumpur, Sept. 13, 2021.

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will sign a cooperation deal with the main opposition bloc Monday 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 became Malaysia’s third prime minister in three years when he was appointed prime minister 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 selected Muhyiddin as prime minister in March 2020 after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s ruling coalition had collapsed 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 COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in Southeast Asia, with 1.9 million total infections and 20,711 deaths, 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 back 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.)