14 Dec 2016

Malaysia King: Sultan Muhammad V Sworn In


Malaysia has installed its 15th king, Sultan Muhammad V, in an elaborate ceremony in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

He took his title, Yang di-Pertuan Agong or He Who Is Made Lord, in a ceremony packed with dignitaries at the National Palace.

The sultan, currently ceremonial ruler of Kelantan state, was sworn in dressed in traditional Malay formal wear.

As part of the day's events, Muhammad V also inspected an honour guard and received a 21-gun salute.

How long will he be king?

Under Malaysia's rotational monarchy, the top job is passed between nine hereditary state rulers. Malaysia is the only country in the world to have a rotational monarchy, in place since the country won independence from the UK in 1957.

The throne has only once passed to the same person twice. Mohammad V's immediate predecessor, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, was also king in the 1970s.

Does he have much power?

The office is held for five years but is largely ceremonial, with power in the hands of parliament and the prime minister.

Despite this, the role is accorded considerable prestige, particularly among the country's Malay Muslim majority, for whom the king is seen as upholding Malay and Islamic tradition. Criticism deemed to incite contempt of the king can attract a jail term.

What are his interests?

The new king, one of the country's youngest at 47, is half the age of his predecessor, who at 89 was the country's oldest monarch.

But Sultan Muhammad V is not the first forty-something to hold the office in recent years. Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin was sworn in aged 45 in 2006.

Sultan Muhammad V's interests are also relatively youthful. He is keen on extreme sports like off-road driving, shooting and endurance challenges.

He also enjoys reading, golf and football, and participates in public walking events to promote healthy living.

Who else was in the frame?

The Sultan of Johor, Ibrahim Ismail, broke with convention in October to say on Facebook that he had turned down the top royal role at a conference of Malaysian monarchs and leaders of states without hereditary rulers, as "he wants to strictly adhere to the rotation system".

The unusually public comment was, said the post, to counter rumours there were other reasons for the decision.

The flamboyant sultan and motorbike enthusiast has attracted controversy in the past over reports he is critical of Malaysia's scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak.

(MD)

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