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Malaysia just got a new king, under a unique system where 9 royal families take turns to rule for 5 years each

Bill Bostock , Business Insider US
 Feb 01, 2019, 07:12 AM
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and nd Quee
Malaysia's new King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah attend a welcoming ceremony at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia January 31, 2019. (Getty)
  • Malaysia's new king was crowned on Thursday as part of a unique rotating monarchy system shared between nine households.
  • Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah takes over from Sultan Muhammad V who abdicated in mysterious circumstances on January 6, the first ruler ever to do so.
  • Under the system, one Sultan from each of the nine royal states becomes king, or "Agong," every five years. Out of the 43 monarchies in the world this is the system of its kind.
  • There are actually 13 Malay states, but only nine of them have royal families.
  • The system has been in place since the British Empire's occupation of Malaysia ended in 1957.

Malaysia's new king ascended to the throne on Thursday, under a unique system where nine royal families juggle the crown every five years.


Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was crowned after Sultan Muhammad V unexpectedly abdicated on January 6 just two years into his term.

According to the BBC, the abdication came after intense speculation about his marriage to Oksana Voevodina, a Russian model who won the Miss Moscow pageant in 2015.

Malaysia has used the rotating monarchy system since 1957, after Britain returned control of the colony to the royal family and the new parliament.

Split between two land masses, Malaysia, highlighted in red, lies to the south and east of Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Wikimedia Commons

There are 9 royal families in Malaysia. The head of each has the title of Sultan, and they rotate five-year terms as "agong", the Malaysian term for king.

The new 59-year-old king is from Pahang state.

There is an established order to who becomes king next, but the Sultans of each family still have to vote on who the next one should be.

Much like in Britain, the monarch holds a mainly ceremonial role, with the Prime Minister and parliament holding administrative power.

The agong must approve legislation before it can become law, but doesn't interfere in politics.

The now-former Malaysian King Muhammad V married Oksana Voevodina, Miss Moscow 2015, in November 2018.
Easdt2WestNews/YouTube

The king does hold roles as the head of government and the armed forces, and he can also issue pardons for criminals.

He is also considered the guardian of Malay culture, morality, and Islam, the official state religion, which two thirds of its 32 million citizens practice.

As a salary, parliament gives the incumbent king 5 million ringgit (R16 million) a year to cover expenses.

The now-former Malaysian King Muhammad V attends a welcome ceremony at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia February 26, 2017.
Reuters

There are 13 states in Malaysia, but only nine of them have royal families.

In the order they rotate as king, they are: Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Perlis, Terengganu, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Johor, and Perak

The sultan next in the rota to be king, Sultan Nazrin of Johor state, became deputy king on Thursday at the ceremony.

Out of the 43 monarchies in the world Malaysia's is the only one which uses this system.

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