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Malaysia suspends parliament session citing risk of COVID infection

·2 min read
Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a session of the lower house of parliament, in Kuala Lumpur

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's special parliamentary sitting will be cut short after the detection of COVID-19 infections in the building, the legislative body said on Saturday, potentially providing relief for embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Muhyiddin faced calls to resign this week after Malaysia's king issued a rare rebuke of the government's revocation of ordinances - issued under an emergency rule in place since January - without his consent.

The monarch had asked for the revocation of ordinances related to the handling of the pandemic to be debated in parliament, but the government said that was not necessary. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had filed a no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin following comments from the much-revered king.

Parliament, which had been suspended under the emergency, convened for the first time this year on July 26th. Eleven COVID-19 infections were detected in parliament on July 29.

Under Muhyiddin's order, the final day of the special session on Aug. 2 will be postponed, the parliament secretary's office said in a notice.

The postponement was in line with recommendations from health ministry officials who warned that parliament was at risk of the spread of COVID-19, the notice said. It did not say when parliament would reconvene.

The royal rebuke is the latest crisis to hit Muhyiddin who has governed with a razor-thin majority and leads an unstable ruling coalition since coming to power in March 2020.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy in which the king has a largely ceremonial role, carrying out his duties on advice from the prime minister and cabinet.

Some analysts say the monarch has discretion over whether an emergency should be declared, however. Consent from the king, who is revered across Malaysia's multi-ethnic population, is also needed to name a prime minister.

Emergency rule is set to expire on Sunday, except in the state of Sarawak where it will be extended to stop regional elections amid the pandemic.

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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