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Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin attends a Parliament session. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin attends a Parliament session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 13, 2020 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

Malaysia’s Political Crisis Is Dooming Its COVID-19 Response

Friday, July 23, 2021

Southeast Asia has in recent weeks become an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indonesia is recording the highest number of confirmed new cases per day in the world, and even one-time success stories like Thailand and Vietnam are experiencing major outbreaks. Myanmar, which remains mired in crisis following a coup in February, is suffering from the unchecked spread of the virus. And Malaysia is reporting roughly 12,000 cases per day, the highest per capita average in the region.

But unlike every other Southeast Asian state save Myanmar, Malaysia’s response is being hampered by chaotic governance and persistent political infighting. With Parliament suspended since January due to a controversial national emergency declaration, political leaders and public health officials have been unable to forge a coherent response. Lawmakers are set to reconvene next week, though the brief session is not expected to yield much of substance. The political stalemate, combined with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s increasingly autocratic tactics and squabbling among other politicians, now endangers both Malaysians’ public health and their hard-fought democracy. ...

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