Malaysia's hereditary rulers will meet soon to discuss proposals from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin that could include a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which his detractors see as a desperate move to hold on to power.

File photo shows Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. (Kyodo)

Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa, who attended a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, told reporters Saturday that no decision has been made yet on the emergency proposal. "It needs the consent of the king," he said.

But he insinuated that the emergency is needed so the government does not need to dissolve parliament and call for a snap election amid the worsening pandemic.

Muhyiddin and members of the National Security Council met King Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin on Friday night after the prime minister chaired the special Cabinet meeting, though it was not clear what proposals he put forth to the monarch to consider.

The king "fully understood the need for an uninterrupted government administration to fight the COVID-19 pandemic," the National Palace said in a statement Saturday.

He urged the people to remain calm while waiting for a decision to be made after a consultation with the Malay hereditary rulers at the palace.

Muhyiddin's nemesis, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, on Saturday slammed his successor for using COVID-19 as an excuse to justify an emergency at a time he is "faced with the possibility of being overthrown."

"The government is not the government elected by the people. It has come to power by undemocratic means. And now it is only concerned about staying in power," he said in a statement.

This is the second time this year the monarchy, which normally performs largely ceremonial roles under the Constitution, was forced to intervene to resolve the country's political turmoil.

In February, following Mahathir's sudden resignation as prime minister after a series of political defections toppled his government, the king also sought the counsel of other Malay sultans over the political tussle between Mahathir, Muhyiddin and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for the top job.

The king picked Muhyiddin, who in his judgement commanded majority support among the lawmakers after the royal personally interviewed each of the 222 lawmakers in the lower house of the parliament.

Seven months later, Muhyiddin's grip on power is under threat as Anwar claims he now has "formidable and convincing" support from lawmakers to take over the government.

Anwar met the king on Oct. 13 to submit proof of his claim and the king was supposed to meet with all political party leaders before making a decision. But due to the partial lockdown in Kuala Lumpur following a surge in coronavirus infections, the meetings were postponed.

Then on Friday, the nation was shaken by speculation that Muhyiddin would declare a state of emergency as the lower house is set to begin its year-end meeting on Nov. 2 and the prime minister could face a no-confidence vote.

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