11 July 2024

Malaysia’s rulers met on Sunday to discuss what sources have said is a proposal by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to impose a state of emergency amid a political crisis in the Southeast Asian nation.

Muhyiddin on Friday asked the king to impose emergency rule that would include suspending parliament, the sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, a move critics have decried as an attempt by the premier to stay in power amid a leadership challenge.

Muhyiddin has been in a precarious position since he took office in March with a two-seat majority. Uncertainties deepened after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said last month he had the parliamentary majority to form a new government.

The prime minister’s proposal comes as Malaysia faces a resurgence in COVID-19, a pandemic-battered economy and doubts over his ability to pass a budget for 2021.

King Al-Sultan Abdullah’s meeting with other senior royals, called the Council of Rulers, began at around 0630 GMT at the national palace.

The constitution gives the king the right to decide if an emergency should be declared, based on threats to security, economy or public order. The Council of Rulers can deliberate on questions of national policy and has the power to withhold consent from any law.

An emergency would give extra powers to the prime minister, who can then introduce rules and approve expenditure without the usual parliamentary process.

Several political leaders from the opposition and even the ruling coalition have come out against the proposed emergency, saying there was no justification for it except to prevent the collapse of the government.

Some opposition lawmakers have also suggested a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement under the Westminster system, which would mean opposition lawmakers vote in favour of the government on certain bills.

Media reports have said Muhyiddin’s emergency proposal seeks to suspend political activities and would not affect other economic activity.

“A state of emergency may provide some form of stability in the short term, especially concerning policy implementation,” Affin Hwang Capital Asset Management said in a research note.

“Though if left unchecked and prolonged, it is harmful to the country’s democratic process and governance,” it said, adding equity and bond markets could see a knee-jerk selloff if an emergency is imposed.