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Malaysian coronavirus: King declares state of emergency to limit Covid-19

In a televised address Tuesday, Muhiydin said parliament would be suspended for a period of time and that elections would not be held during the emergency, which could last until August 1st.

“Let me assure you that the civilian government will continue to function. The state of emergency declared by the king is not a military coup and the curfew will not be imposed,” Muhiydin said in an attempt to dispel concerns about the measures.

The move should reduce, at least for now, some of the political uncertainty hanging over Muhiydin since his unelected alliance came to power by a slim majority in March, following the break-up of a previous coalition led by veteran leader Mahathir Mohammad.

Some ruling coalition lawmakers backed the prime minister and called for early elections, while opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said last year he had a majority to form a new government.

Muhiidin assured people that the election would take place after a new independent commission announced that the pandemic was over and that it was safe to hold polls.

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As a last resort, his government can pass laws without parliamentary approval.

On Monday, Muhiydin announced a nationwide travel ban and a 14-day blockade in the capital, Kuala Lumpur and five countries, saying the country’s 32 million-strong healthcare system was at a critical juncture.

The number of new daily infections reached a record high last week, breaking the 3,000 mark for the first time. A total of 138,000 coronavirus cases crossed Monday with 555 deaths.

Malaysia’s stock index for comparison fell 1.6% after the extraordinary announcement.

“Critical stage”

Malaysia’s palace said Muhidin had asked King Al-Sultan Abdullah to declare a state of emergency as a proactive measure to curb Covid-19.

The declaration will run until August 1 or earlier, depending on whether coronavirus infections are under control, the statement said.

“Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the opinion that the distribution of Covid-19 is at a critical stage and that it is necessary to declare a state of emergency,” the palace said in a statement.

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The king had rejected a similar request from Muhiydin in October. Opposition leaders then criticized the demand as a move to hold on to power.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy in which the king has a largely ceremonial role, fulfilling his duties with advice from the prime minister and the cabinet. But the monarch also has the power to decide whether to declare a state of emergency based on threats to security, the economy or public order.

Nick Ahmad Kamal Nick Mahmoud, a legal expert at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, said the government would be given broad powers during the emergency.

“The constitution is more or less suspended, as a significant part of it can be repealed by the emergency law,” he said.

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