On Tuesday, after agreeing to a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is facing a leadership challenge, King Al-Sultan Abdullah of Malaysia declared a nationwide state of emergency to curb COVID-19’s spread.
Depending on whether coronavirus infections have been brought under control, the emergency will last up to Aug. 1 or earlier, the palace said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear how the emergency would have an impact on day-to-day activities, but the Constitution allows for the suspension of parliament during that period, which could put an end to Muhyiddin’s political uncertainties for now.
Since coming to power in March 2020, the premier has been in a precarious position because of a razor-thin majority in parliament. Some partners of the ruling coalition have called on him to step down and call for early elections.
As a proactive measure to curb the number of infections, the palace said Muhyiddin requested the emergency.
The palace said, “Al-Sultan Abdullah believes that the spread of COVID-19 is at a critical stage and that there is a need to declare an emergency proclamation.”
A similar request from Muhyiddin was rejected by the king in October. The request was then criticised by opposition leaders as a move to cling to power.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy where a mostly ceremonial role is assumed by the king. Under the constitution, with the advice of the prime minister and the cabinet, the king carries out his duties. It also gives him the right to decide whether, based on threats to security, the economy or public order, an emergency should be declared.
Muhyiddin is scheduled to give an emergency televised address at 0300 GMT.
On Monday, in the capital of Kuala Lumpur and five states, Muhyiddin announced a national travel ban and a 14-day lockdown, saying that the country’s health care system was at a breaking point.
Last week, the number of new daily infections hit a record high, violating the 3,000 mark for the first time. Total coronavirus cases on Monday passed 138,000, with 555 deaths.