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Malaysia in transition

Malaysia PM to 'heed' call for parliament restart but timing vague

After king intervenes, opposition demands Muhyiddin act now or resign

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has kept parliament suspended since January under a COVID-19 state of emergency.   © AP

KUALA LUMPUR -- Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Thursday pledged to listen to a call from Malaysia's king to reopen parliament immediately, without setting a specific time frame for doing so.

Muhyiddin's office released a brief statement the day after King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin made it clear he wants the legislature to resume. At a special conference on Wednesday, the king and Malay state rulers also rejected the possibility of extending the country's coronavirus emergency beyond the Aug. 1 expiry date.

Parliament has been suspended since a state of emergency was declared in mid-January.

Muhyiddin's office on Thursday said the government would take necessary steps -- based on the federal constitution and law -- to "heed" the monarch's advice.

The statement went on to say that in "previous audiences with the king, the prime minister has informed and advised his majesty of the COVID-19 pandemic management, enforcement of emergency ordinances, the implementation of the national immunization plan, economic stimulus packages, reopening of parliament and the national recovery plan."

Sultan Abdullah on Wednesday suggested that parliament should reconvene at the soonest possible moment for the sake of checks and balances, and to allow elected representatives to debate those emergency ordinances and recovery schemes.

Before the king and state rulers intervened, Muhyiddin had said on Tuesday that parliament could reopen in September or October, but only after daily new coronavirus cases fall below 2,000. The country's outbreak appears to have peaked, but the seven-day average still exceeds 5,000.

The prime minister's initial response to the king appears unlikely to placate the country's frustrated opposition, which believes he is buying time for a government they suspect lacks majority support.

In their own statement on Thursday, opposition parties led by Anwar Ibrahim called on Muhyiddin to act on the king's directive or resign.

"If the prime minister insists on refusing to advise the king immediately [on parliament reopening], he must take the honorable step by resigning," said the parties, comprising Anwar's People's Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party and the National Honest Party.

They argued that if Muhyiddin continues to employ various tactics to delay parliamentary proceedings, it shows he has no confidence to govern.

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