Malaysia: elections suspended amid lockdown


Authorities in Malaysia have declared a state of emergency that suspends Parliament and puts on hold any new general elections at least through August. The order is ostensibly a measure to contain COVID-19, coming as Kuala Lumpur and other cities are being placed under near-total lockdown, or Movement Control Order. But critics are portraying the declaration as a ploy by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to remain in power. The accusations prompted Muhyiddin to go on national television after the order was issued Jan. 12 to insist the move is “not a military coup.”

Referring to Malaysia’s monarch, Sultan Abdullah,┬áofficially known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme Ruler), Muhyiddin said: “I want to stress that the Emergency declaration by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is not a form of military coup.” The emergency was invoked under Article 150(1) of Malaysia’s constitution, which states that the Agong may issue such a declaration┬áif he is “satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened.”

A previous request for an emergency order by Muhyiddin had┬ábeen rejected by Sultan Abdullah in October. Since then, the corruption scandal engulfing Muhyiddin’s conservative ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), has deepened. Six UMNO parliamentarians are either currently facing trial or appealing convictions. The left-opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance issued a statement assailing Muhyiddin over the order: “Do not hide behind COVID-19 and burden the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving yourself.” (Malay Mail, AP, NPR, SCMP, Free Malaysia Today)

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