In a unique rotational monarchy, the Sultan of Johor will be installed as the country’s next King and hold the largely ceremonial post for five years, while Sultan Perak is Deputy King
KUALA LUMPUR – The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar was today chosen by the country’s nine sultans at a session of the Conference of Rulers and will be installed on 31 January 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.
It added that Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, will be appointed deputy king, also for five years from the Jan 31, 2024.
The 64-year-old Sultan Ibrahim will replace incumbent sovereign Al-Sultan Abdullah ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah, who was crowned in 2019 and ends his term on January 30.
While Malaysia’s monarchy bears some similarities to that of its former British colonisers, since gaining independence in 1957, the country, which is governed via parliamentary democracy with the monarch holding a mostly ceremonial head-of-state role, has implemented a one-of-its-kind system of succession.
Under the constitution, the monarch, called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or Agong for short, is changed every five years. And the crown is not passed down by bloodline upon the previous monarch’s death or abdication, but rather it falls to the next in an established order of nine royal families who share the throne and are also the rulers of nine of the country’s 13 states. Even though the next in line is known, the monarch-to-be requires majority approval by the group of royals via a secret ballot.
In recent years, political crises in Malaysia have prompted the Agong to step in. The shock resignation of veteran parliamentarian Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad from the premiership in 2020 prompted Al-Sultan Abdullah to speak to all 222 lawmakers before deciding on who will succeed Mahathir. He then appointed Muhyidin Yassin as Prime Minister. When the latter resigned amid lack of majority support 17 months later, the Agong repeated this process.
When the country’s general elections in November last year resulted in a historic hung parliament as major political coalitions could not cobble together a simple majority, the Agong intervened again and appointed Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
As monarch, Al-Sultan Abdullah had previously pardoned Anwar in 2018, after being jailed since 2015 on sodomy charges.
Background of the Sultan of Johor
Born Nov. 22, 1958, Sultan Ibrahim is of Malay-British descent. His father is Sultan Iskandar ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail, who led the state from 1981 until his death in 2010. His mother is Josephine Ruby Trevorrow, whom Sultan Iskandar met while he was studying in Britain. The two had four children, including Sultan Ibrahim.
The Johor royal is a fully trained army, navy, and air force officer, according to his coronation website. He studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston.
Unlike traditional Malaysian rulers, Sultan Ibrahim stands out for his candor. He has spoken against parliamentarians causing political instability in Malaysia, and openly shared his opinion on Malaysia’s relations with China, which he called a “good and reliable ally.” Sultan Ibrahim is also known for his religious moderation—in 2017, he ordered an alleged “Muslim-only” laundrette to apologize and to stop discriminating against non-Muslims or face closure.
Sultan Ibrahim’s father was the country’s eighth king, holding the throne between 1984 and 1989.
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. – Various Agencies
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