Malaysia’s king Al Sultan-Abdullah on Sunday rejected a proposal by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for a state of emergency to be imposed because of the coronavirus crisis.
The king believes the government has handled the pandemic well and is capable of continuing to manage the crisis under Muhyiddin, the palace said in a statement.
Muhyiddin had made the request following a resurgence in coronavirus cases and amid a power struggle for the premiership post. The potential move has been widely condemned by the country’s opposition politicians and greeted with alarm by Malaysians.
Muhyiddin has faced questions over his support in the 222-seat parliament since he was appointed prime minister in March, and pressure has grown since the opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said last week he had secured the backing required to become prime minister.
Malaysia is also battling a sudden resurgence in the outbreak of COVID-19.
The country now has more than 24,000 cases of COVID-19, more than double the number a month ago. Upwards of 700 and 800 cases a day have been reported for the past week and on Friday the country recorded 10 deaths, the highest since the pandemic began.
The next session of Malaysia’s parliament is scheduled to begin on November 2, with the government facing its first test within days when the budget is presented on November 6.
A failure to pass the spending plans could be seen as a vote of no-confidence in the government and lead to a general election.
During the last session in July, Muhyiddin, who governs in a loose alliance with a number of ethnic Malay and Islamic parties, won the vote to replace the speaker by a majority of just two.
Multi-ethnic Malaysia was last governed under an emergency in 1969, after race riots in Kuala Lumpur left scores of people, most of then ethnic Chinese, dead.
Under the order, the constitution was suspended, parliament dissolved, and the functions of government moved under a National Operations Council. A curfew restored order to the streets, but the media was muzzled and prominent opposition politicians were arrested under provisions that allowed for indefinite detention.
Parliament reconvened in February 1971, and political life resumed, but the actual emergency ordinance was not fully repealed until 2013.