Malaysia will not extend state of emergency, says law minister

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia will not extend a months-long national state of emergency when it ends on Aug. 1, law minister Takiyuddin Hassan said on Monday.

The Southeast Asian country has been under emergency rule since January, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin arguing it was needed to curb the spread of COVID-19. But critics have slammed the move and accused the premier of trying to cling to power amid a slim majority.

Despite the emergency and strict lockdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia has only worsened, triggering public anger.

Malaysia reported a record number of cases on Sunday, taking the total number of infections past 1 million. Its per capita infection rate is the highest in the region.

Minister Takiyuddin said the government will not ask the king to extend the emergency. He was speaking in parliament, which had been suspended due to the emergency but convened for a special session on Monday.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy in which the king has a largely ceremonial role, carrying out his duties with advice from the prime minister and cabinet. But the monarch also has the power to decide if an emergency should be declared.

Muhyiddin has governed with a razor-thin majority and led an unstable ruling coalition since coming to power in March 2020.

The UMNO party, Malaysia's biggest political party and key ally in the coalition, withdrew support for Muhyiddin earlier this month.

Nonetheless, Malaysia's attorney-general said the withdrawal will not affect the position of Muhyiddin or his cabinet as the question of his house majority can only be determined by parliament.

Parliament's current special session will run for five days. So far, there have been no indications that a confidence vote will be called.

(Reporting by Liz Lee; writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies)

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