Malaysia's king rejects emergency rule in blow to premier

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected on Sunday a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for him to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis, saying that he did not see the need.

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin wearing a protective mask arrives at a mosque for prayers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Putrajaya, Malaysia August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo/File Photo

The move is a blow for Muhyiddin, who is facing a leadership challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and infighting within his ruling coalition.

Anwar and other critics have denounced Muhyiddin’s proposal for emergency rule, which included the suspension of parliament, as an attempt by the premier to stay in power by avoiding a showdown in parliament over the support he commands.

The palace said Muhyiddin made the request for emergency rule to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but that the government has been handling the crisis well.

Malaysia is seeing a resurgence in virus infections and on Saturday reported its biggest daily jump in cases with 1,228 new cases.

“Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the opinion that there is no need at the moment for His Majesty to declare an emergency in the country or in any part of the country of Malaysia,” the palace said in a statement.

“His Majesty is confident in the ability of the government under the leadership of the prime minister to continue to implement policies and enforcement efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The king also called for politicians to end politicking that could affect stability of the administration.

The constitution gives the king the right to decide if an emergency should be declared, based on threats to security, economy or public order. His decision came after a meeting with other senior royals, the palace said.

Muhyiddin has been in a precarious position since he took office in March with a two-seat majority. Last month Anwar said that, with the help of administration defectors, he has the parliamentary majority to form a new government.

Muhyiddin’s government is due to present the 2021 budget in parliament on Nov. 6 but there are doubts he will be able to command a majority for its approval.

Defeat on the budget would count as a vote of no-confidence in Muhyiddin and could trigger an election.

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with Singapore’s Institute of International Affairs, said Muhyiddin continues to be in a shaky position though some politicians may heed the king’s call to stop politicking.

“Muhyiddin would from now on be coloured by this politically regressive attempt, detracting from his already shaky popular support,” Oh said.

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