The government of Malaysia on Wednesday declared a coronavirus state of emergency to block by-elections slated for two constituencies in January.
“Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a statement the king had assented to the request to impose an emergency in the Bugaya constituency in Sabah on Borneo, the state that health authorities believe was the epicenter of the country’s third wave of infections, and the Gerik constituency in Perak state,” Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The special by-elections were originally scheduled to fill offices that became vacant between general elections.
“[A] parliamentary seat in Perak and a state seat in Sabah are now vacant … following the deaths of Gerik MP Hasbullah Osman and Bugaya state legislator Manis Muaka Mohd Darah respectively,” Channel News Asia (CNA) reported on November 18, when the Malaysian government declared a state of emergency in another constituency in Sabah also to block a scheduled by-election.
“Article 150 of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution stipulates that the Malaysian king may issue a proclamation of emergency upon the advice of the prime minister if he is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, economic life or public order is threatened,” according to CNA.
Muhyiddin this week said that the state of emergency was necessary to halt in-person voting, which he argued would promote transmission of the Chinese coronavirus, as he did last month. Malaysia has experienced a spike in its number of new coronavirus cases since September. The Southeast Asian nation recorded 87,913 total infections and 422 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus as of Tuesday.
Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected an attempt by Muhyiddin in October to impose a nationwide state of emergency in response to a surging number of new coronavirus cases across the country. Observers accused the prime minister of pushing for the emergency order as part of a greater attempt “to block a potential showdown in parliament ahead of a crucial budget vote,” Reuters recalled on Wednesday.
Malaysian opposition leader and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim said at the time that Muhyuddin’s proposed nationwide emergency order would interfere with Malaysia’s parliamentary process.
“Today, we have a government which lacks legitimacy, and which knows it would fail to demonstrate majority support in parliament, and is using the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] crisis as an excuse to justify its abuse of power,” the opposition leader said in a statement.
“Muhyiddin on Tuesday [December 15] succeeded in passing his 2021 budget with a two-vote majority in parliament,” according to Reuters.