Title: Malaysia’s democracy 1) gets a boost from 2) an unlikely quarter
The country’s 3) constitutional monarch 4) intervenes in a debate about reopening Parliament
The last time Malaysia’s Parliament convened was in December, when Muhyiddin Yassin, the prime minister, 5) squeaked through a budget 6) with the narrowest of majorities. Since January a state of emergency to combat the covid-19 pandemic has given Mr Muhyiddin a convenient excuse to shut down 7) the legislature. The 8) ostensible reason is that many lawmakers are old and 9) vulnerable to the virus. The real one is that his 10) shaky coalition may not 11) withstand parliamentary scrutiny. Since the start of the year, 12) multiple defections have left Mr Muhyiddin with Schrödinger’s majority—until it can be measured, it both exists and does not.
No wonder then that the prime minister has 13) been reluctant to put a firm date on reconvening Parliament, offering only a vague timeline of “September or October”. But on June 16th Sultan Abdullah, the king (pictured), urged the government to 14) hold a sitting of Parliament “as soon as possible”. Separately, eight of the nine royals among whom the monarchy rotates issued a statement arguing against any extension of the state of emergency. Several 15) state assemblies are planning to meet in August.
Such interventions from Malaysia’s monarchs used to be rare. But 16) what with the permanently embattled state of Mr Muhyiddin’s government, the endless politicking of opponents hoping to bring it down and the worsening covid crisis, the king is a growing presence in politics. It was he, after all, who appointed Mr Muhyiddin early in 2020 and agreed to declare a state of emergency in January. In effect the king is signalling to the prime minister that he had better 17) get his act together. The government’s failure to control the pandemic has caused 18) a public backlash on the monarchy itself, says Wong Chin Huat, a political scientist at Sunway University near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s biggest city.
Mr Muhyiddin, for his part, is 19) toughing it out. He has formed a committee to look into reopening Parliament. 20) The attorney-general, meanwhile, said that only the cabinet can decide when Parliament meets. On June 29th the king summoned the heads of both houses and again “expressed the view that Parliament should be held as soon as possible” so that 21)“check-and-balance mechanisms” could function. The next day, even as Mr Muhyiddin was admitted to hospital with 22) a severe bout of diarrhoea, the pair proposed a sitting before the emergency expires on August 1st.
Whenever Parliament eventually sits, it is unlikely to bring down the government. A motion of no confidence must be accepted by the speaker, and the government must agree to 23) set aside its business for a vote to take place. Neither is likely to happen. Nor do Malaysians want to see more political chaos as they struggle with infections and 24) economic contagion. Instead, the opposition is likely to position itself as a crucial democratic check, questioning Mr Muhyiddin’s handling of the pandemic and providing oversight. “The last six months the government has been involved in a lot of 25) monkey business. All these things are currently rumours on WhatsApp groups,” says James Chin of the University of Tasmania. But if 26) mps are able to ask uncomfortable questions, he says, “You can embarrass the government and pull it down in the eyes of the people.”
The royal intervention may already be showing results. On June 28th Mr Muhyiddin announced 27) a stimulus package of $36bn targeting small firms and vulnerable people, after 28) mounting criticism of his government’s inadequate economic response. The rate of vaccination has been rising steadily in recent weeks. If Mr Muhyiddin can hang on for a few months more, when many more people have been 29) inoculated and the economy has reopened, he is likely to benefit from public goodwill. His approval rating towards the end of April was still a healthy 67%, up from 63% in January, according to the Merdeka Centre, a local pollster. That was before the latest surge in cases of covid-19. Would things be better if one of Mr Muhyiddin’s many 30) foes were prime minister? Most Malaysians 31) are not keen to find out.
<Word & Expression>
1) get a boost 향상하다
2) an unlikely quarter 예상치 못한 분야(영역)
3) constitutional monarch 입헌군주
5) squeak through 간신히 확보하다(성공하다) 따라서 ‘squeak though the budget’는 ‘간신히 예산을 통과하다’라는 뜻
6) with the narrowest of majorities 아주 근소한 차이로
8) ostensible reason 표면적 이유
9) (be) vulnerable to –에 취약한
10) shaky coalition 불안정한 연립정부(연정)
11) withstand parliamentary scrutiny 의회의 철저한 조사를 견디어 내다
12) multiple defections 많은 사람들의 탈당
13) be reluctant to = be unwilling to –하기를 꺼리다
14) hold a sitting 회의를 개최하다
15) state assemblies 주 의회
16) what with (A) and what with (B) = what with (A) and (B) : (A)와 (B) 때문에
embattled 궁지에 몰린, 교전 중인 politicking 정치 공작 bring down –을 실각시키다
즉 ‘ 영원히 궁지에 몰린 무히딘 내각의 상황 때문에, 또 이 정부를 실각시키고 싶어하는 반대자들의 그칠 줄 모르는 정치공작과 악화되는 코비드 위기 때문에’라는 뜻.
17) get one’s act together 자세(전열)을 가다듬다
18) public backlash 대중의 비판
19) tough it out 어려움을 참고 견디다
20) attorney-general 법무부 장관
21) check-and-balance mechanism 견제와 균형의 메커니즘
22) a severe bout of diarrhea 심한 설사병으로
24) economic contagion 경제로 확산되는 것
25) monkey business 부정직한 행동, 협잡
27) a stimulus package 부양책
28) mounting criticism 증가하는 비판
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