Malaysian PM Muhyiddin says election will be held as soon as Covid-19 pandemic ends

This is the first time in Malaysian history that an emergency has a deadline, said Mr Muhyiddin. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (March 1) vowed that an election will be held once the coronavirus pandemic is over, in a speech marking the first anniversary of his government which he claimed has successfully fended off "the double whammy of health and economic crises".

This comes after King Abdullah Ahmad Shah said last week that the seven-month state of emergency he assented to in January did not preclude the Premier from convening Parliament, where Tan Sri Muhyiddin's previously razor-thin majority is in doubt.

"This is the first time in our history that an emergency has a deadline," Mr Muhyiddin pointed out. "Once the pandemic is over, which I hope will be very soon, I will advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve the Parliament. Until such time, my colleagues in the Cabinet and I will continue to carry out our duties and responsibilities to the best of our ability."

The Premier cited Malaysia's Covid-19 mortality rate which is "one of the lowest in the world" at 0.4 per cent, and the more than nine-tenths of patients who have recovered, as proof of the effectiveness of his government's coronavirus response.

"The economic situation has also improved. In April 2020, the economy shrunk by 28.7 per cent but by December, the contraction was only 1.7 per cent," he said in his address titled "One Year of Caring Malaysia".

He added that unemployment had also fallen from 5.3 per cent last May to 4.8 per cent at the end of 2020.

The Prime Minister said data and science-driven initiatives had allowed the economy to be reopened progressively during the movement control order (MCO) that was first imposed on March 18 last year, leading to global institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund projecting an economic rebound of up to 7 per cent for Malaysia this year.

Mr Muhyiddin came to power after he led a group of defectors out of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.

On Jan 11 this year, his Perikatan Nasional (PN) gained emergency powers - which suspends the need for Parliament to reconvene within six months of its last sitting - amid unhappiness from his largest ally Umno, which resulted in three MPs recanting their support for his leadership around the turn of the year.

This left the government with just 109 out of 220 MPs - two seats are vacant in the 222-strong chamber.

However, Mr Muhyiddin, who is president of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, was bolstered last weekend when two MPs from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat declared their support for PN.

Still, Mr Muhyiddin is unlikely to convene a parliamentary session before the emergency expires as he risks losing his majority in the event more Umno lawmakers withdraw their backing for him. The emergency is slated to end on Aug 1, unless a bipartisan panel advises the King to lift it earlier.

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