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8 Things You Might Not Know About Malaysia's 9th Prime Minister Ismail Sabri

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been in the political arena for over three decades.

Cover image via Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Facebook) & Lim Huey Teng/Malaysiakini via @mkini_bm (Twitter)

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1. A law graduate from Universiti Malaya

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was born in Temerloh, Pahang on 18 January 1960. He completed his early education in the state before pursuing his tertiary studies at Universiti Malaya (UM).

He completed his Bachelor of Laws in 1980. According to Bernama, Ismail began working as a lawyer in 1985.

2. An elected representative for four terms

Ismail is an experienced political figure who has been serving the country for 37 years. He had worked at various levels of the government and held five different Cabinet portfolios in total.

Before he ran for a Parliamentary seat, he was appointed a member of the Temerloh district council in 1987, reported Free Malaysia Today.

In 1995, he became a political secretary to then culture, arts, and tourism minister Sabbaruddin Chik. Within the same year, he was appointed to the board of directors of the Pahang Tenggara Board (DARA) and the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board.

He continued to move up the ranks at the Temerloh UMNO division before becoming its deputy head in 2001.

In 2004, he competed in the 11th General Election (GE11) in a newly-formed Parliamentary seat called Bera, a district in southwestern Pahang that shares a border with Negeri Sembilan.

He has never been defeated in the General Elections and has been serving as the Bera member of Parliament (MP) for a total of four terms.

3. Started out as the youth and sports minister in 2008

Image via Yahoo! News

After defending his Bera seat from PAS in the 12th General Election (GE12), he was appointed youth and sports minister under Tun Abdullah Badawi's administration.

When Badawi resigned as the premier and was succeeded by Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2009, Ismail took on the ministry of domestic trade, co-operatives, and consumerism portfolio.

In 2013, Ismail was the agriculture and agro-based industry minister before a Cabinet reshuffle following the 1MDB scandal in 2015, which then saw him taking on the ministry of rural and regional development portfolio.

According to Bernama, one of the notable initiatives he undertook as the agriculture and agro-based Industry Minister was 'jihad memerangi orang tengah' — an initiative aimed to get rid of middlemen who profited from the hard work of farmers and fishermen.

During the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, he also served as the Opposition leader in Parliament while his party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was on garden leave.

Below is the timeline of his political career:

4. A father of four children

Front, from left to right: Datuk Jovian Mandagie, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yakoob, Gadaffi Ismail Sabri, Datin Seri Muhaini Zainal Abidin, and Nina Sabrina. Back: Nashriq Ismail Sabri.

Image via Harian Metro

Ismail married Datin Seri Muhaini Zainal Abidin in 1986. He has four children in total.

His son Gadaffi Ismail Sabri — or more popularly known as Dafi — was a former contestant of Akademi Fantasia.

Today, the 33-year-old is a singer, actor, and producer.

His daughter Nina Sabrina is a beauty and hair salon owner, who is married to well-known fashion designer Datuk Jovian Mandagie.

His other two sons are Iqbal Ismail Sabri and Nashriq Ismail Sabri, who is UMNO Pemuda Bera information chief.

5. Infamous for opening up malls

Ismail is known for empowering Bumiputera while serving as the rural and regional development minister.

Under his leadership, his brainchild — the MARA Digital initiative — gave birth to several malls selling electronics.

Among them was 'Plaza Low Yat 2' — later named MARA Digital — which was opened inside Menara MARA on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur after the 2015 racially charged brawl at Plaza Low Yat.

He also opened up several digital malls in Shah Alam, Selangor; Kuantan, Pahang; and Johor Bahru, Johor.

In 2019, two of the malls were closed down due to low sales rates, while the mall in Shah Alam was closed in the year prior, reported Bernama.

During his stint as the rural and regional development minister, he also defended the vaping industry in Malaysia despite health concerns raised by the Ministry of Health, reported The Star.

He was also criticised for a racially charged statement he made in February 2015.

6. The shortest-serving Deputy Prime Minister

Ismail waving to reporters before departing for a meeting with the Agong on 19 August.

Image via Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

During Perikatan Nasional's (PN) rule, he served as the Senior Minister of the Security Cluster. He became one of the faces that Malaysians are familiar with because of his daily press conferences that provided updates on the nation's COVID-19 protocols.

Before the collapse of the PN administration, he was promoted to deputy prime minister on 7 July — a move that can be seen as one of the many reasons why he has ascended to the premier post today.

He served a total of 40 days as the deputy premier — the shortest tenure of the post in Malaysian history. 

7. The third oldest political leader to become Prime Minister

Out of all the prime ministers Malaysia has had, 61-year-old Ismail is the third oldest politician to take on the country's top post.

The oldest premier Malaysia had was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at 92 years old, followed by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at 73 years old.

The average age of the first six prime ministers is 55.

8. Received five royal titles in total

Ismail speaking to former higher education minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad (left) after they were conferred with royal titles on 31 October 2020.

Image via Bernama via Berita Harian

Ismail's decades worth of contributions to the country have earned him five royal titles in total.

- 2004: Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka (DMSM) that comes with the title 'Datuk'
- 2005: Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang (DIMP) that comes with the title 'Datuk'
- 2008: Peringkat Pertama Sri Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang (SSAP) that comes with the title 'Datuk Seri'
- 2020: Darjah Seri Panglima Darjah Kinabalu (SPDK) that comes with the title 'Datuk Seri'
- 2020: Darjah Gemilang Seri Melaka (DGSM) that comes with the title 'Datuk Seri'

The Istana Negara announced today, 20 August, that Ismail is the new Prime Minister:

Here are the previous political developments that led up to the appointment of Ismail as Malaysia's ninth Prime Minister:

In June last year, netizens started comparing Ismail's batik shirts to local delicacies: