The King of Malaysia declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday to tackle a coronavirus outbreak and parliament has been suspended, with critics saying it was an attempt by the unstable government to sideline hang on to power.

The surprise move came a day after the prime minister announced sweeping new measures across much of the Southeast Asian nation, including shutting down most businesses, and warned that the system health was “at breaking point”.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has agreed to declare a state of emergency until August 1 following a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the national palace said in a statement.

This is the first time that Malaysia has declared a national state of emergency in more than half a century and Mr. Muhyiddin, in a televised speech, confirmed that parliament will be suspended and that elections will not be held. place at the moment.

Not a coup, says PM

But the leader, whose 10-month-old administration shows signs of disintegrating, insisted that “the civilian government will continue to function.”

“The declaration of emergency … is not a military coup and a curfew will not be enforced,” he said.

He insisted he was committed to holding a general election once the country’s epidemic was brought under control.

The announcement came after key allies in Mr. Muhyiddin’s coalition began to withdraw support, which could have led to the collapse of the government and nationwide polls which some believe could worsen the outbreak. .

Mr Muhyiddin has narrowly survived a series of challenges in parliament since taking office, but is now believed to have lost his majority.

Malaysia has kept the virus under control for much of last year with a difficult lockdown, but once the brakes have been relaxed, cases have accelerated and repeatedly hit new records in recent days.

In addition to suspending politics, the declaration gives the government the power to take control of private hospitals as government facilities are overwhelmed, and to get additional help from the military and police, Muhyiddin said.

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