Why did Malaysia's king, Sultan Muhammad V, abdicate so suddenly?

Geraldine Edwards
January 8, 2019

The King of Malaysia has abdicated after just two years on the throne, becoming the first person in the country's history to resign before completing their five-year tenure.

Sultan Muhammad V is stepping down immediately as the 15th King of Malaysia after serving since December 13, 2016, according to a statement from the palace on Sunday which gave no reason for the abdication.

Sultan Muhammad V's resignation comes barely two years after he ascended the throne and three years shy of his five-year term as the country's head of state.

The 49-year-old king returned to royal duties a week ago after two months of sick leave.

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A successor has yet to be announced, however, experts suspect that the Conference of Rulers, in which the sultans, prime minister, and officials convene to discuss monarchical matters, may have already anticipated the abdication, and have decided on who will lead next.

The next king in line is the Sultan of Pahang, but the 88-year-old's ailing health has raised questions of who should rightly succeed.

Sultan Nazrin Shah of northern Perak state is the acting king, local media reported.

No Malaysian monarch has stepped away from the throne since the country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957.

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Swearing in ceremonies for Malaysian kings are lavish affairs, marked by honour guards and Islamic prayers and attended by hundreds of guests in traditional finery.

Malaysia's Islamic rulers will now meet to decide on the next king.

Other political figures thanked the King for his service.

During his first stint as prime minister for 22 years until his retirement in 2003, Mahathir pushed through constitutional amendments that stripped the sultans' power to veto state and federal legislation, and curbed their legal immunity. In June, the government and the Agong reached an impasse regarding the appointment of ethnic Indian lawyer Tommy Thomas as attorney general, a position normally reserved for a member of the Malay-Muslim majority race - although the constitution does not specify a specific race, gender or religious requirement for the role. Another netizen, Shahril Aziz, recalled Sultan Muhammad V's famous quote which went viral, saying: "Remember Tuanku's joke at the opening of the Parliament sitting... the hot phrase at that time was "sit down, don't run" if you still remember".

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