Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin heads to palace after key party says its withdrawing support for his government.
Malaysia’s embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was under renewed political pressure on Wednesday after members of his key coalition ally withdrew their support following a rare rebuke from the king, further exacerbating tensions over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Muhyiddin, whose fragile government has been under almost constant pressure since he was named prime minister in March 2020 was seen going into the palace amid a heavy police presence shortly before 11am (03:00 GMT). He is due to give a television address at 12.30pm
Malaysia has been in a state of political turmoil for months amid suspicions that Muhyiddin, whose coalition was formed following a power grab at the start of the pandemic, no longer has majority support in parliament.
In January, the king declared an “emergency” that suspended parliament with Muhyuddin arguing the move was necessary to curb the pandemic. Since then the outbreak has only worsened and the country’s health system is now struggling to cope with more than 200,000 active cases. A record 219 people died from COVID-19 on Monday.
Muhyiddin’s latest problems follow the recall of parliament for a “special session” last week when the law minister suddenly announced the emergency, which was due to end on August 1, had been revoked a few days before.
In a statement, the king said the move had been made without his consent and in violation of the constitution. In response, the prime minister said it had all been above board. Malaysia’s king is a constitutional monarch.
The disagreement with the palace drew anger from opposition parties as well as in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has the most seats in the ruling coalition.
On Tuesday night, some UMNO members, led by Zahid Hamidi, the party’s president said they were withdrawing their support for Muhyuddin.
One of the party’s more junior cabinet ministers also resigned his post although senior ministers remained in their positions.
On Wednesday, local media reported that the attorney general had also visited king, while the chief of police was seen entering the prime minister’s office complex in Putrajaya, the administrative capital.
There was further uproar on Monday when riot police were deployed to prevent dozens of opposition legislators from walking to parliament, which had been suddenly closed after 11 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed following mass testing of the more than 1,000 people in the building.
Junior doctors also went on strike last week over pay and conditions, while hundreds of young activists took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur at the weekend in opposition to the government.
The police are investigating the protests and were questioning MPs on Wednesday.