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Malaysian MPs agree not to dissolve Parliament before end-July 2022

New bipartisan pact also covers Covid plan, parliamentary reforms and lowering of minimum voting age to 18

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's government will not dissolve Parliament before the end of July 2022, according to a deal signed with the opposition aimed at maintaining political stability while the country recovers from its Covid-19 crisis.

Malaysia has seen upheaval since the 2018 election defeat of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) after more than 60 years at the country's helm, amid widespread corruption allegations.

Two governments have since collapsed, with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's recent appointment restoring the premiership role to Umno.

Mr Ismail's coalition, which holds a slim majority in Parliament, on Monday signed a cooperation pact with the main opposition bloc led by Mr Anwar Ibrahim.

Under the pact's terms, details of which were publicly released yesterday, the government agreed to carry out several decisions and reforms, including tabling laws to prevent defections and to limit the prime minister's tenure to 10 years.

In return, Mr Anwar's coalition will not block the government on critical votes in Parliament, where their failure to be passed could be construed as a sign of no confidence.

This includes a commitment to support or abstain on the government's 2022 Budget, which is set to be tabled next month.

The Budget must also be negotiated and finalised on a bipartisan basis, the agreement said.

MONITORED

The pact, the implementation of which will be monitored by a bipartisan committee, will last until dissolution of the current Parliament.

Other reforms agreed include: Strengthening a Covid-19 plan, restructuring parliamentary committees, equal funding for government and opposition lawmakers, opposition involvement in National Recovery Council, and immediate lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.

The Finance Ministry yesterday also announced a RM45 billion ringgit (S$14.5 billion) increase in the government's coronavirus fund, an expansion the opposition requested be included in the agreement.

Meanwhile, Malaysia recorded 15,669 new Covid-19 infections yesterday, taking the total past the two million mark at 2.011 million.

It took Malaysia more than a year to hit the one million mark on July 25, and the severity of the latest wave of infections is clear as the country tallied another million cases in less than two months. The number of deaths stood at 21,124 as at Monday.

Yesterday's number of new infections is the lowest for a single day since the end of July, though, and is the fourth consecutive day where cases have falled. The government also announced plans to drastically simplify Covid-19 restrictions in the country.

Senior Minister for Security Hishammuddin Hussein said that the country aims to slash its current list of 181 standard operating procedures to just 10 by the time it transitions to an endemic phase at the end of October. - REUTERS, THE STRAITS TIMES

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