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Malaysia’s king declared a nationwide state of emergency for the first time in more than half a century, suspending parliament in a move that allows embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to avoid facing an election until the pandemic is over.

The emergency decree gives Muhyiddin’s administration more power to tackle a surge in COVID-19 cases, including over the operations of private hospitals, and may allow the police and military to assist in public health measures. The ringgit and the country’s main stocks index declined after the announcement, which came a day after Muhyiddin imposed a two-week targeted lockdown in most of the country starting Wednesday.

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