Malaysia to reopen Parliament July 26 after royal pressure

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government announced Monday that Parliament will resume July 26, caving into pressure from the king to lift the legislature’s suspension under a coronavirus emergency imposed in January.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin obtained royal assent in January to declare an emergency until Aug. 1 to curb a spike in coronavirus cases, but critics slammed the decree as a ruse to help him stay in power amid challenges to his leadership from both the opposition and within his coalition.

The emergency suspended Parliament but includes no other measures. Muhyiddin’s government remains in control and has extraordinary powers to introduce laws without parliamentary approval.

Critics noted daily infections surged to more than 9,000 in May, nearly five times as much as when the emergency was imposed, prompting the government to impose a large-scale lockdown since June that bans social and business activities. New infections still exceed 6,000 a day, with the country’s confirmed total breaching 785,000 and deaths exceeding 5,400.

Muhyiddin earlier predicted Parliament could reopen by September at the earliest but the country’s king insisted it should resume as soon as possible.

“The sitting will be for the purpose of explaining to members about the national recovery plan” and to amend necessary laws to allow for hybrid proceedings going forward, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Monday. All proclamations and ordinances issued during the emergency will be submitted to both houses of Parliament for approval, it added.

Muhyiddin, 74, took power in March 2020 after instigating the collapse of a reformist alliance that won 2018 elections and joining with the opposition to form a Malay-centric government. But his government is shaky with a razor-thin majority in Parliament. Support for his leadership cannot be tested with Parliament suspended.

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This story corrects day of announcement to Monday.

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