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Malaysian King Declares State of Emergency Amid Rising COVID-19 Infections

People line up to pay at a supermarket, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan. 12, 2021.

Malaysia’s king has declared a national state of emergency as part of an effort to curb the growing numbers of novel coronavirus infections.

The royal palace announced Tuesday that King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah issued the decree after meeting with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. King Abdullah had rejected a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin back in October to issue a similar order due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The emergency order suspends parliament until August 1 and gives the prime minister’s government broad authority to enact laws.

In a televised address, Muhyiddin attempted to assure the nation that the state of emergency was “not a military coup” and that no curfew would be enforced during that period. He had issued a two-week lockdown for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, and five surrounding states Monday as the number of total COVID-19 cases has grown over 138,000, including 555 deaths, with the number of daily new cases rising to well over 2,000 in recent weeks.

The emergency also gives the embattled prime minister a reprieve from growing calls in parliament for a special election. Muhyiddin has been prime minister since February, when he was chosen by King Abdullah after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly resigned and his government collapsed.

Muhyiddin’s politically divided ruling coalition has left him with a shaky hold on power. The United Malays National Organization, the coalition’s largest party, has threatened to withdraw support from the prime minister. And veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met with the king back in September and said he gave him the names of 120 members of the 222-seat parliament who are ready to defect from the prime minister’s razor-thin coalition.