Heads of Malaysia’s nine royal households will meet on January 24 to elect a new king from among them after the surprise resignation of King Muhammad V, an official said on Monday.
Datuk Seri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, the keeper of the ruler’s seal, made the announcement at a meeting between six of the households on Monday morning in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
It was not clear why representatives from the other three royal households did not attend the meeting at the national palace, where it was decided that the new king will be sworn in on January 31.
King Muhammad abdicated 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 while the king assumes a largely ceremonial role, his assent is needed for the appointment of a prime minister and various other senior officials.
The country’s nine royal families take turns to elect a king through a vote in the Council of Rulers, which is made up of the nine households.
A vote must be held within four weeks of the throne becoming vacant.
King Muhammad, 49, who comes from the northeastern state of Kelantan, had resumed duties last week after two months on medical leave.
Images purporting to show him getting married in Russia appeared on social media in December and identified his new wife as a model and former Miss Moscow, Oksana Voevodina.
The marriage has not been confirmed by either the palace or the government.
Media has reported tension between the palace and the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad since the latter returned to power last year.
Mahathir led the opposition to a landmark election win in May, defeating a coalition that had governed Malaysia for 60 years.
In June, the government and palace endured a near two-week impasse over a plan to appoint someone who was not from the majority ethnic Malay community as attorney general.
The king eventually approved the appointment, though the incident had stoked ethnic tensions.
Mahathir, known for challenging royalty during his previous 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” is subject to the law. He did not elaborate.
Mahathir said on Monday the government hoped the council would elect a new king as soon as possible as the government needed to keep the king informed on “certain matters”, the country’s national news agency Bernama reported.