Malaysian rulers to pick new king by end of month

KUALA LUMPUR (The Straits Times/ANN) - The 16th king or supreme ruler, and his deputy will be sworn in at the end of the month. 

Malaysia's Conference of Rulers will meet in about two weeks to elect the country's new constitutional monarch and his deputy after the King, Sultan Muhammad V, stepped down on Sunday in an unprecedented move.

The 16th king, or supreme ruler, and his deputy will be sworn in at the end of the month, Keeper of the Royal Seal Syed Danial Syed Ahmad said in a press statement.

Yesterday morning, six of Malaysia's nine ruling monarchs held a meeting at the national palace, Istana Negara, following Sultan Muhammad's decision to step down as the Malaysian king.

"The rulers attending this gathering have fixed Thursday, Jan 24, 2019, to hold a special Conference of Rulers meeting for the purpose of electing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XVI and the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong," Tan Sri Syed Danial said in the statement.

"The rulers have also decided that a special meeting for the swearing-in ceremony for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be held on Thursday, Jan 31, 2019," the statement added.

The rulers in attendance at yesterday's meeting were from Perlis, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Perak and Kedah.

According to the statement, the ruler of Pahang did not attend the meeting as he was unwell, and the Sultan of Selangor was overseas.
Sultan Muhammad, who is from Kelantan, was seen performing Friday prayers in the state last week.

Neither the palace nor the Prime Minister's Office has given a reason for the sudden abdication of the 49-year-old Sultan Muhammad after just two years as King - three years short of the usual five-year tenure. Though a constitutional monarch, the King is seen as a symbol of Malay power and protector of Islam, the state religion.

Under Malaysia's unique five-year rotation system involving the nine royal Malay houses, the next in line is Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, 88, followed by Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, 60, of Johor, and then Sultan Nazrin Shah from Perak, 62.

Sultan Ahmad Shah is not in good health, and his son has been Regent for two years.

The Conference of Rulers groups the nine sultans and four governors of states with no royal families (Penang, Melaka, Sabah, Sarawak). However, voting for the next king is done only by the nine Malay rulers, with priority given to the monarch who is next in line.

In the interim period, Sultan Nazrin Shah, the current Deputy King, will likely serve as Acting King, reported the New Straits Times.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that the government hopes the new king would be elected as soon as possible.

Tun Dr Mahathir said the election had to be expedited because he had to have an audience with the king on certain matters.

"The government accepts the decision of Sultan Muhammad V to step down. It is in accordance with the Constitution," Dr Mahathir told reporters after attending an event, according to Bernama news agency.

Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that she was saddened to hear of Sultan Muhammad's abdication as he was the one who had pardoned her husband, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who had been jailed for sodomy.

"We respect his decision, but I am also sad as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was there when a big change happened in the country; he was there to swear in the new Prime Minister and also saw the change of government, which is historic," she told local media.

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