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Malaysia Imposes Emergency After 50 Years; No Polls Now

Acceding to a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the Malaysian king has imposed a nationwide emergency till August 1. The government put forth the view that the move was needed to tackle a spike in Coronavirus cases that has strained the public health system. Imposition of emergency means Parliament and state legislatures have been suspended, the first such move in 51 years.

Elections will have to wait till the decree is lifted. That works well for the embattled Muhyiddin, who took power last year after the earlier coalition government collapsed, as he has a slim majority in parliament. In October last year, the Prime Minister had sought imposition of emergency ahead of a vote on the budget but the King refused, instead appealing to all lawmakers to unite and pass the budget so that measures can be taken to boost the economy that has been battered by the pandemic. The budget was passed. But of late there have been calls for a fresh election, even from some members of the ruling coalition.

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Meanwhile, the government will form a bipartisan committee of MPs and health experts which would advise the king if the emergency can be lifted earlier than August in case the situation gets better. Elections would be held when the panel decides, said Muhyiddin.

Malaysia has seen over 2,000 new Covid-19 cases daily in the past week. There have been over 550 deaths so far, the number having doubled in the last couple of months.