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AFP
January 13, 2021

Malaysia declares emergency, suspends parliament

World

AFP
January 13, 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s king declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday to fight a coronavirus surge and parliament was suspended, with critics charging it was a bid by the unstable government to cling to power.

The surprise move came a day after the prime minister announced sweeping new curbs across much of the Southeast Asian nation, including the closure of most businesses, and warned the health system was "at breaking point".

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah agreed to declare an emergency until August 1 following a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the national palace said in a statement. It is the first time Malaysia has declared a national state of emergency in over half a century and Muhyiddin, in a televised address, confirmed parliament would be suspended and elections would not take place for the time being.

But the leader, whose 10-month-old administration is showing signs of falling apart, insisted that "the civilian government will continue to function". "The emergency declaration... is not a military coup and a curfew will not be enforced," he said. He insisted he was committed to holding a general election once the country’s outbreak is brought under control.

The announcement came after Muhyiddin’s key coalition allies started withdrawing support, which could have led to the collapse of the government and snap national polls that some feared could worsen the outbreak.

A local election last year has been blamed for triggering a new wave of infections that spread nationwide. Muhyiddin has narrowly survived a series of challenges in parliament since taking office but is now thought to have lost his majority.

The Pact of Hope opposition alliance, which includes veteran politician Anwar Ibrahim, said the move was unacceptable as the partial lockdown announced earlier in the week was enough to tackle the virus.

"The emergency powers give the prime minister absolute power to do anything he wishes," the pact’s leaders said in a statement. "Do not hide behind the coronavirus and burden the people by declaring an emergency in a bid to save your self."