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.
In a briefing on Tuesday, the prime minister said he may introduce measures like price controls to prevent economic sabotage. An independent committee would be established to advise the king on the duration of the emergency, which was set to expire on Aug. 1 unless the outbreak abates sooner. Elections would be held as soon as an independent committee declares that the pandemic has subsided and it’s safe to hold a vote, Muhyiddin said.