Malaysia king abdicates in historic first

No Malaysian monarch has stepped away from the throne since the country gained independence from the UK

Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan

The 49-year-old Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan resigned as Malaysia's 15th king on Sunday, marking the first abdication in the nation's history and cutting short his five-year term. The royal palace decline to offer an explanation for why the king stepped down after serving only two years. It has also refused to comment on a widespread rumor that the ruler's departure was tied to his marriage to a former beauty queen in Russia during a recent medical leave.

Yet, keeper of the Ruler's Seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, says the Council of Rulers held a meeting Monday and set 24 January to elect a new king. The new ruler would be sworn then in 31 January, the statement adds. Until then Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, who was Acting King while Muhammad V was on medical leave in November, will continue as acting king.

The monarch’s position in Malaysia, officially called “yang di-pertuan agong,” rotates every five years among a group of hereditary sultans who are titular leaders of nine Malay states. (The other four states have governors instead.) This power-sharing arrangement was developed when Malaysia became independent from Britain in 1957 and the sultans — who had previously ruled independently, with support from the British colonial authorities — needed to nominate a figurehead to rule over a newly federalized nation.

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