Malaysian sultans choose new king in unique rotational monarchy

Sultan Ibrahim of the southern state of Johor will hold the largely ceremonial post for five years.

Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor walking side by side. Sultan Ibrahim is saluting.
Malaysia's King Al-Sultan Abdullah (left) and Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar walk together after the election for the next Malaysian king [Mohd Rafsan/Pool via Reuters]

Malaysia has announced that its next and 17th king will be Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar from the southern state of Johor.

Sultan Ibrahim was chosen by the country’s nine sultans at a session of the Conference of Rulers on Friday and will be installed on January 31 next year.

“I hereby inform that the Conference of Rulers, during its 263rd (Special) Meeting, held at the National Palace on Friday, October 27, 2023, has agreed to declare that His Royal Highness Sultan Ibrahim, Sultan of Johor Darul Ta’zim, has been chosen as His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XVII for a period of five years commencing from Jan 31, 2024,” the keeper of the Royal Seal said in a statement.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong or “King of Kings” is a constitutional monarch, but since the historic elections of 2018 and the revolving door of ruling coalitions that followed, the king has taken a more active role in politics.

King Al-Sultan Abdullah has used the monarch’s discretionary powers to choose the country’s last three prime ministers, including after the election in 2022 when no single party won a parliamentary majority.

Sultan Ibrahim, who is said to have a passion for fast cars and motorbikes and has extensive business interests, is also known for taking an annual road trip around Johor to meet the people of the state.

Married with six children, the 64-year-old is trained to fly jets and helicopters, and has “the spirit of a soldier and excel(s) in sea activities and other extreme sports,” according to the website for the royal family.

Sultan Ibrahim’s father was the country’s eighth king, holding the throne between 1984 and 1989.

The Johor royal family dates from the early 16th century and has its own private army.

For many of the country’s majority Malays, especially in rural areas, royalty remains a potent symbol of identity. Sultans are the guardians of Islam in their own states, while the king is also the protector of the religion in states where there is no hereditary monarch. Malaysia’s Malays are always Muslim.

The head of state lives in a purpose-built palace with 22 yellow domes in Kuala Lumpur’s inner western suburbs. They also act as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and have the power to grant pardons to convicts.

Source: Al Jazeera