Sultan Muhammad V, 49, resigned on January 6 as Malaysia’s 15th king, cutting short his five-year term in the first abdication in the nation’s history. No reason was given, but it came after he reportedly married a 25-year-old former Russian beauty queen in November.
Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, a keen athlete who holds a string of positions on sporting bodies, including at the world football governing body FIFA, was elected as the new king on Thursday during a special meeting of Malaysia’s Islamic royalty.
“[Abdullah] has been chosen as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong [‘He Who Is Made Lord’ in Malay] for a period of five years starting from January 31, 2019,” said a statement from the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with the king assuming 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 various senior officials.
It’s a unique arrangement where the national throne changes hands every five years between rulers of the country’s nine states headed by the Islamic royalty.
Eight of the state sultans earlier met at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur for the so-called “Conference of Rulers” to select the new king.
The only one absent was Muhammad V, who remains the sultan of the northeastern state of Kelantan despite having abdicated as the national monarch.
Abdullah was widely expected to become king as the central state of Pahang was next in line to provide the monarch.
The 59-year-old was named Pahang’s new ruler – replacing his elderly, ailing father – several days after Muhammad V’s abdication, paving the way for him to become the next national monarch.
Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak state was named as the deputy king, according to the statement.