Minister Annuar Musa defends need for emergency in Malaysia, asks what laws can delay polls

KUALA LUMPUR – A Cabinet minister has launched a defence of the decision to seek emergency powers on Friday (Oct 23), asking what other legal provision would allow elections in Malaysia to be delayed amid a resurgent wave of coronavirus infections.

In a posting on Twitter sharing a local media report citing lawyers as saying that existing legislation is sufficient to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa claimed the majority of Malaysians do not want to go to the ballot, having seen how last month’s polls in Sabah triggered record numbers of daily infections and deaths.

His comments came ahead of the by-election in Batu Sapi, Sabah, pencilled in for Dec 5, as well as state polls that must be held in neighbouring state Sarawak by the middle of next year.

“Pls advise which law to use when Bt Sapi voters want govt to postpone by election. Which law to use when Sarawakian want their PRN to be postponed for fear of what happened to Sabah. And which law to use when 87% of voters indicated they don’t want GE for fear of COVID-19 outbreak,” the Umno lawmaker wrote in his post on Friday night.

Tan Sri Annuar is the secretary-general of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, the largest bloc in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government.

It is unclear where he sourced information on the number of voters who want to avoid a general election.

National polls are not due until 2023, but a political imbroglio triggered when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed he had a “formidable majority” late last month has raised the spectre of Budget 2021 being defeated in Parliament.

Although Umno president Zahid Hamidi eventually backpedalled on threats to leave the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, it could still lose a vote in Parliament if just three out of its 113 MPs defect.

Should the government fail to approve spending for next year, Tan Sri Muhyiddin would have to resign, possibly triggering snap polls as no other MP appears to be able to command a parliamentary majority.

This is the first public statement by a minister on the need for an emergency since a special Cabinet meeting decided on the matter on Friday morning. However, no official announcement has been made following an audience between senior members of the Muhyiddin administration and the King on Friday evening.

The Straits Times understands that Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah did not immediately consent to the request and instead will consult with eight other state monarchs before making a decision.

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An emergency would allow Parliament and elections to be suspended, while laws and expenditure can be approved directly by the government.

Sabah continues to struggle with the largest coronavirus outbreak in Malaysia so far. The campaign for the Sept 26 polls in Malaysia’s easternmost state has seen the disease spread across the country, with the total number of infections doubling this month alone.

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