Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Malaysian rulers select Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah as new king after shock abdication

Sultan Muhammad V stepped down after reports he married a Russian beauty queen

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang will be sworn in as Malaysia's king on January 31, 2019. Malaysia Information Ministry via AP
Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang will be sworn in as Malaysia's king on January 31, 2019. Malaysia Information Ministry via AP

Malaysia's royal families on Thursday picked a sports-loving sultan as the country's new king after the first abdication in the country's history shocked the country earlier this month.

Sultan Muhammad V stepped aside this month after only two years on the throne following reports that he had married the former Miss Moscow while on medical leave.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, a keen athlete who holds a string of positions on sporting bodies, including at world football governing body Fifa, was elected as the new king during a special meeting of Malaysia's royalty.

Sultan Abdullah "has been chosen as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong [king] 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 a unique arrangement where the throne changes hands every five years between rulers of the country's nine states.

Eight of the state sultans met at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur for the Conference of Rulers to select the new king.

The only one absent was Muhammad V, who remains the sultan of the north-eastern state of Kelantan despite having abdicated as the national monarch.

Sultan Abdullah, 59, was widely expected to become king as the central state of Pahang was next in line to provide the monarch.

He 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.

The deputy king was named as Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak state.

As well as being a member of Fifa's council – which lays out the vision for global football – Sultan Abdullah is president of the Asian Hockey Association and a former head of the Football Association of Malaysia.

After attending school in Malaysia, the keen polo player went on to study in Britain, where he attended the Sandhurst military academy, according to a biography published by state news agency Bernama.

After Pahang, the next state due to provide a king is Johor.

The sultan of Johor, which borders Singapore, is one of the country's most wealthy and powerful rulers, and has his own private army.

To be elected as the national king, a sultan must be supported by at least five of the state rulers.

While their role is ceremonial, Malaysia's royalty command great respect, especially from the country's Muslim Malay majority.

Portraits of the king and queen adorn government buildings throughout the country. The king is also the symbolic head of Islam in the nation, as well as the nominal chief of the military.

Malaysia's sultans trace a lineage back to the Malay sultanates of the 15th century. The king's official title, Yang di-Pertuan Agong, means "He Who Is Made Lord".

Updated: January 24, 2019 02:22 PM