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COMMENT | Last month Umno’s supreme council announced that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob would be the party’s candidate for the country’s top job in the coming 15th general election (GE15).

The reasons to do so were two-fold: to convince the PM to call an early election and to tap into the resources of the incumbent government for the GE, including the traditional support that rallies around the holder of the office of the prime minister.

Since this announcement, there has been an all-out effort to boost the support and profile of Ismail Sabri, from throwing a ‘hero’s welcome’ upon his return from a trip abroad to the United States (where his performance was overshadowed by other leaders in Asean) to greater media attention on his initiatives, particularly his focus on promoting the national language.

A month later, the costs of making this decision are coming to the fore. Rather than strengthen Umno’s chances electorally, announcing Ismail Sabri as the leader going into the next election has weakened support for the party’s chances. Ironically, by offering the lucky seat holder the chance to earn his own mandate, the effect has been to...

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