Malaysian political crisis

Anwar slams Muhyiddin's emergency plan as means to stay in power

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently claimed that he has sufficient support in Parliament to form a new government.
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently claimed that he has sufficient support in Parliament to form a new government.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has criticised reported plans by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to impose emergency measures and forestall a parliamentary vote on the Budget scheduled for next month.

Sources told The Straits Times that Tan Sri Muhyiddin chaired a special Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya yesterday morning to decide on emergency measures to ensure that the upcoming Budget session in Parliament does not result in snap elections if it fails to pass.

Mr Muhyiddin holds a slim majority in Parliament, and failure to pass the Budget would be tantamount to a no-confidence vote in his government and could trigger snap polls.

A general election, however, amid a resurgent wave of coronavirus infections, could prove disastrous.

Datuk Seri Anwar, who recently claimed he has sufficient support from a majority of the country's 222 lawmakers to form a new government, said Mr Muhyiddin's administration was using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to justify its abuse of power.

"The government has failed to provide strong leadership in handling this crisis and is instead resorting to undemocratic means to stay in power," Mr Anwar said in a statement yesterday.

The Straits Times understands that an "economic emergency" could be proclaimed to ensure that government spending to curb Covid-19 - which has seen total cases doubling this month alone - is not jeopardised by an increasingly unstable political atmosphere.

Mr Muhyiddin had an audience with Malaysia's King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, yesterday evening and is believed to have sought his assent to implement these emergency measures. However, as at yesterday, there was no announcement from the government on the measures.

Mr Anwar, who is president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and heads the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, said: "A state of emergency is declared when there is a threat to our national security. But when the government is itself the source of that threat, then a state of emergency is nothing more than descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism."

Other PH lawmakers also voiced their opposition to the emergency measures, saying there were sufficient laws in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. They accused Mr Muhyiddin of using the measures to avoid having to prove his majority at the ballot box.

Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad posted on Twitter that the country needed a "strategic public health response", not a "legislative-political intervention" to tackle the third wave of Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Ms Yeo Bee Yin, an MP from the Democratic Action Party, said that the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 was sufficient to control the pandemic, and questioned if the Prime Minister was using an emergency to cling on to power.

Mr Anwar also criticised the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, describing it as "sheer incompetence".

"While the rest of Asia is looking for ways to manage the virus and reopen their economies safely, Malaysia is heading in the opposite direction," he said.

He also slammed the govern-ment for thinking that "a receding democratic power is the best strategy".

"In fact, to overcome Covid-19, what we need is transparency, accountability and firm action by the various ministries," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'Anwar slams Muhyiddin's emergency plan as means to stay in power'. Print Edition | Subscribe