Malaysia's Muhyiddin urges lawmakers to pass budget to tackle COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin wearing a protective mask arrives at a mosque for prayers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Putrajaya

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, facing a challenge from the opposition and dissent within his coalition, on Saturday urged lawmakers to pass the 2021 budget to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malaysia has seen a resurgence in infections that is battering the economy, with the number of cases more than doubling in the past month.

"I hope all parliamentarians can put aside political differences to ensure that the 2021 Budget is approved in the interest of the people and the country," he said in a televised address, adding that "an understanding can be framed among members of parliament".

Malaysia's king also urged lawmakers this week to set aside political disagreements to pass the budget.

Muhyiddin's administration is scheduled to present its first budget on Nov. 6, amid a challenge for the premiership by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The prime minister's credibility was dented after he failed to secure royal assent to declare emergency rule.

Muhyiddin, whose coalition has a thin majority in parliament, has been under pressure from unhappy partners who have demanded more powerful positions in government.

He also said elections that must be held in Sabah and Sarawak states in Borneo cannot be avoided, despite the recent spike in coronavirus infections, unless a state of emergency is declared.

Malaysia reported 659 new cases bringing the total number of infections to 31,548, which Sabah accounts for nearly half of.

There were no new fatalities reported, leaving the death toll at 249.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff and Liz Lee; Editing by William Mallard)