Despite ‘Emergency’ declared in January, coronavirus cases have soared and anger at the government is growing.
Malaysia’s biggest political party announced early on Thursday it was withdrawing its support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and called on him to resign, underlining the political instability plaguing the country as it struggles to contain a resurgent coronavirus.
Politics have been in flux since a power grab within the then-governing coalition led to its collapse at the end of February last year. Muhyiddin emerged as prime minister after convincing the king he had sufficient support in Parliament, but has been under pressure ever since.
The escalating COVID-19 crisis has added to the government’s woes, with much of the country, including the capital Kuala Lumpur and its richest state, Selangor, in lockdown, and hospitals at or near capacity.
Zahid Hamidi, the president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), said the party had decided to withdraw its backing for the prime minister because of its failure to tackle the pandemic.
His comments came just hours after Muhyiddin had promoted two UMNO leaders to top positions. UMNO is the largest component party in the governing coalition and dominated Malaysian politics for years before it lost power for the first time in May 2018. Wednesday’s promotions gave the party the previously unfilled post of deputy prime minister in addition to the senior cabinet posts it already holds.
The “Emergency” order is due to end on August 1.
On Thursday, local media reported Muhyiddin’s home in the upmarket neighbourhood of Damansara Heights was a “hive of activity” with a number of luxury vehicles seen arriving. Among the visitors were senior minister and now deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri, who is an UMNO vice president, as well as the Attorney General, according to The Vibes, an online news outlet.
Malaysia reported 91 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday with 10 people ‘brought in dead’ to hospital. The country’s total death toll now stands at 5,768 with 40 percent of those deaths taking place in the last 30 days.
The government has come under fire on a host of fronts including the pace of the vaccine rollout, its COVID-19 testing strategy, and lack of support for people who have lost their income as a result of successive lockdowns. It has also been criticised for continuing to allow factories to operate despite the lockdown.