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Malaysia’s king rejects PM's request to declare state of emergency

Blow for Muhyiddin, who is facing a leadership challenge, infighting within ruling coalition

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's king, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, yesterday rejected a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis, saying he did not see the need.

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

Mr Anwar and other critics have denounced Mr 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 the House over the support he commands.

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

Malaysia is seeing a resurgence in infections and on Saturday reported its biggest daily jump in cases with 1,228 new cases. It reported 823 cases yesterday.

"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.

"Sultan Abdullah also said that there was no need for Members of Parliament to continue their irresponsible actions that could disrupt the stability of the existing government," the palace said.

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 state rulers yesterday afternoon.

Mr Muhyiddin will be meeting all state government heads in Putrajaya this morning, said The Star, quoting a source.

The source also said that a special Cabinet meeting will follow right after the meeting with chief ministers.

Mr Muhyiddin has been in a precarious position since he took office in March with a two-seat majority.

Last month Mr Anwar said that with the help of defectors, he has the parliamentary majority to form a new government.

Mr 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 Mr Muhyiddin and could trigger an election.

Senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun said Mr 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," he said. - REUTERS, THE STAR

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