Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's proposal to invoke emergency rule in Malaysia to rein in a spike in coronavirus cases has been met with frosty responses from political rivals and allies, as well as civil society leaders, who branded the move as disproportionate and unjustified.
The Malaysian King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, is set to meet his fellow rulers among the nine royal households today at 2.30pm to decide on Tan Sri Muhyiddin's proposal.
The power play is happening even as Malaysia has been experiencing an exponential surge in virus cases since late last month, following the Sabah state election.
Around one-third of the country's population is under partial lockdown.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said there is no breakdown of law and order in Malaysia to justify an emergency.
"Countries with more severe Covid-19 problems have not declared emergency for the whole country but only for affected areas," said Tun Dr Mahathir.
He claimed the government's move was an attempt to deal with the political situation in the country.
Mr Muhyiddin's majority in Parliament remains in doubt, and it remains to be seen if his government's budget can win a parliamentary vote when it is tabled next month.
The Prime Minister was also the subject of a push from several lawmakers to have a no-confidence motion tabled in Parliament, including one from his own Perikatan Nasional coalition.
Former Cabinet minister Rafidah Aziz said declaring an emergency now would be tantamount to "killing a few rats using a bomb".
She said in a Facebook post yesterday: "Already the economic and socio-economic impact on the people and nation is continuing to drain us all of our resilience and confidence. But to declare an emergency, impacting Parliament, the democratic processes and dispensing with democratic norms - that is too much."
Deputy president Mohamad Hasan of Umno, a party in the ruling coalition, said the government should use democratic and scientific means to battle the coronavirus outbreak.
"Handle this crisis by upholding the Constitution, by allowing democracy to function, streamline the response of the public health and safety system, and prioritise the interests of ordinary people by not adding to their misery," he said in a Facebook posting yesterday.
Civil society groups were similarly critical of the move.
Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 criticised the move as "overkill" in a statement on Friday, but at the same time urged the opposition to back any budget Bill in Parliament to ensure Mr Muhyiddin's budget does not fail.
A group of lawyers consisting of former Malaysian Bar presidents urged a rethinking of the move, saying that it would be a "nightmarish" error that plunges Malaysia into one of its "darkest" days.
"If the predominant objective of the suggested declaration is to suspend Parliament, and to gain emergency powers, then it will obviously be an unlawful design which, if unchecked, will disenfranchise and deceive Malaysians," said the statement signed by seven former Bar presidents.
Malaysia last declared a national emergency 51 years ago in May 1969 following deadly race riots.