Malaysia’s King Summons Political Leaders as Public Anger Grows Over Covid
(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s king is meeting politicians and royal leaders to discuss the Covid outbreak and ongoing emergency, amid public anger over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
The members of the Conference of Rulers will convene on June 16, according to a statement from the palace. The meeting, to be chaired by King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad, will focus on the efforts to combat the pandemic and the measures taken throughout the emergency.
It’s the second rulers’ meeting since the king ascended the throne last year and comes after he met opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng, and Mohamad Sabu separately on Wednesday. The monarch is scheduled to meet former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday.
“His Majesty is our hope right now because parliament is unable to convene,” Lim, leader of the Democratic Action Party, said after seeing the monarch. “There is no space for the people to express their problems.”
Malaysia’s already elevated political risks have worsened due to “widespread and growing dissatisfaction” over how the government is managing the outbreak, Fitch Solutions wrote in a report Monday. Rising public anger will likely affect the government’s unity, and Malaysians may take to the streets if elections aren’t held in coming months, it said.
Malaysia’s king could potentially put a stop to it. The monarch has the ability to lift the ongoing state of emergency that he declared in January in order for the government to tackle the pandemic. The emergency state allowed embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to suspend parliament -- where he faced growing dissent -- and enact temporary laws without legislative approval.
Still, the emergency didn’t help to contain the outbreak. Malaysia returned to a hard lockdown this month after daily infections topped a record 9,000 by end-May, straining the resources of the nation’s hospitals. The worsening outbreak has prompted calls for parliament to reconvene. Malaysia on Friday said it was studying the possibility of allowing lawmakers to participate online.
Anwar told reporters he urged the monarch to do his utmost to prevent the government from extending the emergency, which is due to end in August. Still, the king is bound by the spirit of Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy, where he acts on the prime minister’s advice, Anwar said.
After staying in the background of national politics for decades, Malaysia’s monarch began moving center stage last year to fill a vacuum created following the abrupt resignation of Mahathir as premier. The king resolved a week-long impasse by tapping Muhyiddin to become prime minister without a parliamentary vote. Opposition leaders had sought meetings with the king while vying for power.
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