KUALA LUMPUR - Thousands of Malaysians have signed a petition addressed to the King, rejecting the idea of Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob being possibly appointed the country's ninth prime minister after the collapse of the Perikatan Nasional administration on Monday (Aug 16).
The petition on change.org, which was started by one Kyle Mohd, garnered 200,000 signatures within the first eight hours after it went online.
To date, the petition has more than 333,000 signatories, hours before a special Conference of Rulers meeting is set to take place at the palace in Kuala Lumpur on Friday afternoon where the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, is expected to finalise the decision on who becomes the next prime minister.
"He (Ismail) has mishandled the Covid-19 pandemic, causing large-scale infections. Many inappropriate remarks (by him) proved that he is just a liar and a political joker," Kyle Mohd said in the description of the petition.
"Your work or business has to stop because the health protocols are constantly changing. Parents, husbands, wives, children, siblings, friends, they died of being infected by Covid-19. Reject a failed government," he added.
One of the signatories, Dzikri Z, when asked why he had signed the petition, said that Datuk Seri Ismail was one of the politicians "responsible for the high cases of Covid-19 in Malaysia".
The race for the premiership started after Tan Sri Muhyiddin tendered his resignation on Monday, having lost his majority after 15 Umno MPs withdrew their support for him.
On Tuesday, Sultan Abdullah asked for all lawmakers to submit names for their PM candidate, with 114 MPs standing behind Mr Ismail. This gives the 61-year-old a slim majority in the 220-strong Parliament.
Mr Ismail has been criticised for the sometimes confusing and conflicting health protocols, including on which economic sectors should shut as Covid-19 cases kept rising.
The former senior minister had also announced that returnees from Sabah for the state election in September last year were not required to serve quarantine, leading to a fresh wave of infections.
Since the pandemic broke out last year, Malaysia has seen almost 1.5 million infections and more than 13,000 fatalities so far.
When he was the minister in charge of domestic trade in 2015, Mr Ismail courted controversy over his Facebook posting in which he urged Malay consumers to boycott what he said were profiteering Chinese businesses.
That same year, he raised more heckles by setting up what became known as "Low Yat 2", a digital gadget mall housing only Malay computer traders to bypass Chinese businesses.
Not everyone, though, is against his elevation as prime minister.
"May Ismail Sabri be made easier by Allah to carry out the trust of Allah to govern this country wisely," said Facebook user Anne's Kauthar.
Another user Msham Kamal said: "If Pak Long wants to be stronger, Pak Long should appoint Muhyiddin as DPM whom the people respect."
Mr Ismail is often referred to as "Pak Long", which means eldest uncle.