Malaysia's king to consult with rulers amid talk of emergency

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah will consult with other rulers to discuss proposals by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the palace said on Saturday, after sources told Reuters the premier had asked the king to declare a state of emergency.

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin wearing a protective mask arrives at a mosque for prayers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Putrajaya, Malaysia August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo/File Photo

Muhyiddin met with the king on Friday to present the emergency proposal that includes a suspension of parliament, sources said – a move that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim denounced as an attempt by the premier to retain control amid a power struggle.

The proposal comes as Malaysia faces a resurgence in coronavirus cases, a pandemic-battered economy and doubts over Muhyiddin’s ability to command a majority in parliament and pass the budget for 2021.

The palace did not identify the recommendations made by Muhyiddin, and said the king will soon hold the consultation with other Malay rulers.

“Al-Sultan Abdullah greatly understands the need for the country’s administration to continue to tackle the threat of COVID-19,” the palace said in a statement.

The Council of Rulers, which groups the heads of Malaysia’s nine royal houses, has the power to withhold consent from any law and deliberate on questions of national policy.

A source familiar with the matter said the rulers will meet on Sunday.

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Muhyiddin’s office has not commented on the emergency proposal.

‘NO JUSTIFICATION’

Opposition politicians say there is no valid reason for the government to impose an emergency and that it was meant to avoid a showdown in parliament over the support Muhyiddin commands.

The government is scheduled to propose its 2021 budget on Nov. 6 when parliament reconvenes early next month.

There have been questions over whether Muhyiddin can muster a majority in parliament to pass the budget since Anwar staked his claim to form a government. The premier has also come under fire from some of his coalition partners, who have threatened to withdraw support for him and back Anwar instead.

Defeat on the budget would count as a vote of no-confidence in Muhyiddin and could trigger an election. Emergency rule might mean the budget would not be put to a vote.

Former premier and opposition lawmaker Mahathir Mohamad said there were no riots or a breakdown of law and order to justify an emergency, which would give additional powers to Muhyiddin.

“Faced with the possibility of being overthrown, the prime minister wants the powers under a state of emergency,” Mahathir in a blog post.

The Star daily reported the proposed emergency would only affect political activities, and there will be no curfews or any impact on economic activities.

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