Since its independence in 1957 Malaysia has been the only country in the world with rotational monarchy among nine hereditary state rulers. On 13 December 2016 Sultan Muhammad V was sworn in as the country’s 15th King, and he will be in office for the next five years. He took his title, Yang di-Pertuan Agong (He Who Is Made Lord), in a ceremony packed with dignitaries at the National Palace in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Although carrying the same title, the new King of Malaysia has some special characteristics which we present as follows:
Aged 47, Sultan Muhammad V is one of the youngest kings of Malaysia. There have been other kings who were sworn in in their forties such as Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin who was 45-years-old when he ascended the throne in 2006 as Malaysia’s 13th king.
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V is the first king in the history of Malaysia to reign without a Raja Permaisuri Agong (queen consort). He was known as Malaysia’s “last bachelor crown prince” when he married Tengku Zubaidah Tengku Norudin from Pattani, Thailand, in 2004. However, the marriage ended in divorce.
Since he was the crown prince and later the sultan of Kelantan, Malaysia’s new king has been famous for his closeness to people. He usually reaches out to people, assists those in need and promotes philanthropic works such as giving houses to flood victims. His closeness to people was shown when he visited a mosque for Isha’a prayer right after becoming the king, but without protocol and formal guards accompanying him.
Although all other kings were Muslims, Sultan Muhammad V is known for his careful following of the Islamic teachings in everything he does. He has a degree in Islamic Studies from the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, UK. As reported by the Malay Mail, he takes his “Islamic teacher” with him whenever he travels outside of Malaysia. Prior to becoming the King of Malaysia, Sultan Muhammad V was the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The ruler of Perak State, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, 59, was elected as the deputy king for the next five years. Based on the Malaysian constitution, the king’s position is mostly ceremonial, with power in the hands of parliament. He was formally responsible for ministerial appointments but on the advice of the prime minister.
The appointment of a new king follows the election among the nine rulers of Malaysia. Voting is usually done through a secret ballot handed out by the keeper of the rulers’ seal during a special election meeting. A majority of five votes is required to decide who will be the next Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Finally, it is worth mentioning that with simple calculations over 60 years of independence, there should have been 12 kings only—each ascending the throne for five years—but some kings did not remain for the full five-year term. No king in Malaysia stayed for longer than five years in one reign, however.