Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Malaysian council meets after king resigns

Reuters, KUALA LUMPUR

The Malaysian National Palace is pictured behind its main entrance in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Members of Malaysia’s royal families yesterday decided a new king would be elected on Jan. 24 from among them after King Muhammad V unexpectedly resigned, national news agency Bernama reported.

The king resigned on Sunday after just two years on the throne, the first time a monarch has stepped down before completing their five-year tenure.

No reason was given for the resignation.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and the king assumes a largely ceremonial role, including acting as custodian of Islam in the Muslim-majority country. The king’s assent is needed for the appointment of a prime minister and senior officials.

Malaysia’s nine royal households take turns to provide a king, who is chosen through a vote in a Council of Rulers, made up of the nine households, most of which are led by a sultan.

Heads of six of the nine households met at the national palace to decide the date for the election of a new king, Bernama reported.

King Muhammad V, 49, had resumed duties last week after spending two months on medical leave.

Images purporting to show him getting married in Russia appeared on social media last month and identified his new wife as Oksana Voevodina, who won a Miss Moscow contest in 2015.

The palace did not respond to earlier requests for comment on the photos or reports of a marriage.

Media has reported tension between the palace and the government of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad since the latter returned to power last year.

Mahathir led the opposition to a historic election win in May, defeating a coalition that had governed Malaysia for 60 years.

In June, the government and palace faced a near two-week impasse over a plan to appoint someone how was not from the majority ethnic Malay community as attorney-general.

The king eventually approved the appointment, although the incident had stoked ethnic tensions.

Mahathir, known for challenging royalty during his earlier 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.

Mahathir yesterday said that the government hoped the council would elect a new king as soon as possible, as the government needed to keep the king apprised on “certain matters.”

Succession might not be straightforward, as the next in line to the throne, Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang state, is elderly and reported to be ailing.

Royal officials said he did not attend yesterday’s meeting due to ill health.

After him, the next in line under the rotation system is the sultan of southern Johor state.

Sultan Nazrin Shah of northern Perak state is the acting king.

Additional reporting by AFP

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