King Abdullah of Malaysia has declared a months-long Covid-19 health emergency on Tuesday to combat the rising coronavirus cases amid political turmoil in the country, a move that critics say will allow its incumbent government to evade scrutiny and help the Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to stay in power.
The parliament of the country will be suspended till at least the August unless the cases are brought under control. A statement by the palace said that Sultan Abdullah agreed to declare national emergency following a request by the prime minister, ostensibly to combat the rising Covid-19 infection toll. But the critics are less sure of the sincerity of the government.
This decision is expected to devolve huge powers to the prime minister and his government which quite recently has been under the weather. The emergency will suspend the parliament, meaning that it will allow the government to introduce laws without approval. The elections would also be put on hold.
Malaysia had managed to mostly contain the infection toll after it introduced a strict lockdown last year, but a fresh outbreak emerged following an election in the state of Sabah in September. The prime minister has warned that the healthcare of the country is at a “breaking point.”
Malaysia has reported more than 138,000 Covid-19 infections with 555 deaths since the start of the outbreak. Health officials say that the current wave of infections could cause the daily cases to grow to 8000 a day by May.
On top of the coronavirus pandemic, Malaysia has continued to face political instability over the past year. Muhyiddin Yassin came to power in March 2019 after the former Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad resigned unexpectedly in February, prompting the collapse of the government. Snap elections were soon held in which Muhyiddin emerged with a thin victory. His legitimacy has been questioned, with some pointing out that he did not win power through the ballot box.