Opposition leader Anwar slams Malaysian PM Muhyiddin's emergency plan as means to cling to 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 of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to impose emergency measures and forestall a parliamentary vote on the Budget scheduled for November.

Sources told The Straits Times that Tan Sri Muhyiddin chaired a special Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya on Friday morning (Oct 23) 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 a snap poll. A general election, however, amid Malaysia's resurgent wave of coronavirus infections, could prove disastrous.

Datuk Seri Anwar, who recently claimed that 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," said Mr Anwar in a statement on Friday.

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, on Friday evening and is believed to have sought the ruler's assent to implement these emergency measures.

"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 the descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism," said Mr Anwar, who is president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and heads the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

Other PH lawmakers have also voiced their opposition to the emergency measures, saying the 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, MP Yeo Bee Yin 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.