Malaysia’s Sultan Muhammad V abdicates in historic first


Malaysia’s Sultan abdicates after two years on throne


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Malaysia’s Sultan Muhammad V has abdicated, the palace said, after two years on the throne, the first time a monarch has stepped down before completing their five-year tenure.

Malaysia is the only country in the world to have a fixed term rotational monarchy. Each of the nine royal families representing the nine states of Malaysia take it in turns to rule for precisely five years. This is the first time a monarch has not seen the entirety of their reign through.

The Sultan’s resignation took effect immediately, the National Palace said in a statement. No reason was given and palace officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The Sultan, 49, had resumed duties after spending two months on medical leave. Images purporting to show him getting married in Russia appeared on social media in December. The palace did not respond to requests for comment on the photos or reports of a marriage. With many passing the social media posts off as hoaxes, instead citing the Sultan’s health as the reason for abdication.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and the Sultan assumes a largely ceremonial role, including as the custodian of Islam in the Muslim-majority country. However, the king’s assent is needed before the appointment of a prime minister or senior public officials. Much like in nations such as the UK a government, although in the driving seat is not able to be formed with out the signing off from the monarch.

Malaysia has nine royal households, whom take turns to sit on the throne, and the selection of the next king is decided by a vote in the Council of Rulers, made up of all nine royal households.

The palace statement said the Sultan, who took the throne in December 2016, was grateful for the opportunity given to him by the Council of Rulers and thanked the prime minister and government for their cooperation during his rule.

“His Highness has worked towards fulfilling his responsibilities entrusted to him as the head of state, serving as a pillar of stability, source of justice, the core of unity  for the people,” the palace statement said.

The New Straits Times reported there had been tensions between the palace and the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led the opposition to an election win in May.

Mahathir, known for challenging royalty during his past 22-year tenure as prime minister, said in a blog post last week that everyone “from the Rulers to the Prime Minister and Ministers, to the civil servants and ordinary citizens” are subject to the law. He did not elaborate.

In June, the government and palace faced a near two-week impasse over a plan to appoint a non-Malay as attorney-general. The king eventually approved the appointment, though the incident had stoked racial tensions.

 


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About the Author

Michael Al-Said
News correspondent for Al-Sahawat Times since 2012

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