The country of Malaysia in Southeast Asia is a federal constitutional monarchy. This means that it is a union of 13 partly-autonomous states and three federal territories brought together under a national constitution. It is a monarchy because its head of state is a royal figure, one who is elected from among the noble hereditary rulers of nine of the 13 Malay states. This ruler, the equivalent of a King, is called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and there have been 14 of them in Malaysian history (one was re-elected and reigned two times). This week however, Malaysia is having something of a royal crisis happening.
CNN reports that Muhammad V, Sultan of Kelantan and the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, shocked the nation on Sunday Janaury 6 when he announced his abdication of the throne, the first of the Yang di-Pertuan Agongs to do so. His decision to step down came just over two years since he was elected by his fellow Malay rulers in December 0f 2016, six years after he became Sultan of his home state Kelantan. He was expected to reign as the Malay king for a term of nine years, before another election takes place.
In response to this turn of events, the royal families of the Malay states have held a meeting in order to decide a date for choosing a new king. Official vehicles of six of the Malaysian royals were seen as of Monday, January 7, gathering at the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s royal residence of the new Istana Negara in Segambut, northwestern Kuala Lumpur. The Bernama Malaysian state-run news agency believes that the royals are conferring on when they will elect the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong from among themselves. They were also advised that a statement to the media will be made by Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal Tan Sri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad before the weekend.
The reasons for Muhammad V’s abdication as king of Malaysia are a topic of lengthy discussion. Factors range from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong ruling at a time the establishment political party Barisan Nasional fell from power (when Muhammad V swore in Mahathir Mohammad as Prime Minister), to possible backlash from his pardoning Malaysian political icon Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy charges (allowing his return to politics), to a potential scandal from Muhammad V allegedly marrying Russian beauty queen Oksana Voevodina, something both the palace and national government have remained silent on.
For the moment, the throne of Yang di-Pertuan Agong is vacant while Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, Sultan of Perak and elected Timbalan Yang di-Pertuan Agong (deputy king), serves as acting head of state for the nation.
Image from Sun Daily (Malaysia)