King of Malaysia leaves throne after marrying Russian Queen

Hugh Fox
January 8, 2019

Sultan Muhammad V is the first monarch to give up the throne since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957.

The announcement on Sunday follows a leave of absence by the head of state and rumours he had married a former Russian beauty queen.

"The Rulers have chose to hold a special Council of Rulers meeting on Thursday, 24th January 2019 for the objective of electing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XVI (16) and the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong".

The council of nine sultans met at the National Palace to determine who the next king will be.

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For the first time in the country's history, Malaysia's king has abdicated.

The palace said in a statement Sunday that the 49-year-old Sultan Muhammad V had resigned with immediate effect, cutting short his five-year term.

Among those wishing the former king well was scandal-plagued former premier Najib Razak, who wrote in a Facebook post: "We Malaysians pray for his health and that he is protected by Allah". However, the king's assent is needed before the appointment of a prime minister or senior public officials.

While their role is ceremonial, Malaysia's Islamic royalty command great respect, especially from Muslim Malays, and criticising them is strictly forbidden. For example, the Agong is the custodian of Islam in the country and has three major functions; appointing the Prime Minister, dissolving parliament to make way for elections, and to call for meetings involving the conference of rulers.

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Still, some sultans have in recent years become more active in business and politics.

In a surprising revelation, Sultan Muhammad V has made the decision to stepped down from his position as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He was one of Malaysia's youngest constitutional monarchs and has a love for extreme sports.

Local newspapers, featuring a picture of Malaysia's King Muhammad V on their front pages, are on display in Shah Alam, Malaysia January 7, 2019.

But there had been growing unease at his reign after reports emerged in foreign media in late November - several weeks after the king went on leave - that he had married the Russian, Oksana Voevodina, in a lavish ceremony in Moscow. No reason was given and palace officials did not respond to requests for comment.

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