KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin won parliamentary approval for his government's 2021 budget on Thursday, avoiding a potential political crisis in the midst of other crises brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Parliament passed the budget by a voice vote, leaving it unclear exactly how many of the 222 lawmakers supported the government's first budget since Muhyiddin emerged as the leader of a new coalition in March. The government tabled the country's largest-ever budget three weeks ago, in a bid to bring the economy out of its first recession in over a decade and to manage the health fallout from COVID-19, as a spike in infections since September that has seen a fourfold rise in the caseload to nearly 60,000. If parliament had rejected the budget it could have triggered a political crisis. It was the first real test for Muhyiddin's wafer thin majority. His coalition has been beset by infighting, and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been impatient for a chance to test whether Muhyiddin still commanded support. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange gained 0.3% after the vote, while the ringgit strengthened by 0.2%. Parliament will now proceed to the committee stage debate which will focus on specific budget provisions for approval. Muhyiddin had earlier called for cross-party support for the budget, after the king decreed that all lawmakers should give their full backing for the government's spending plans as it tries to bolster an export-led economy that is suffering through the pandemic. Up until the budget vote, Muhyiddin had held a two-seat parliamentary majority but was buoyed by public approval for his early handling of the pandemic and support from the king, who in May upheld his appointment as premier. But he has faced growing dissent in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the largest bloc in his coalition. UMNO's support has appeared tenuous after former party leader and ex-premier Najib Razak attempted to broker conditional support for Anwar from among UMNO lawmakers. Muhyiddin's credibility also took a blow late last month after King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected his request to declare a state of emergency after a sharp spike in new coronavirus cases. Parliament's approval of the budget has given Muhyiddin some breathing space, said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with Singapore,
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