Malaysia elects Sultan Ibrahim of Johor as new king

Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor walk together after the election for the next Malaysian king at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur on October 27, 2023. MOHD RASFAN/Pool via REUTERS

The royal families of Malaysia have chosen the influential and affluent ruler of the southern Johor state as the country’s new king through a unique rotational monarchy system, as announced on Friday.

Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, aged 64, is set to assume the throne on January 31 for a five-year term. His election was widely anticipated, given that he was the next in line based on the established rotation order among the nine state rulers of Malaysia.

Sultan Ibrahim’s succession follows the incumbent Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of the central Pahang state, who presided over a turbulent period marked by COVID-19 lockdowns and political instability, resulting in four different prime ministers since the 2018 general elections.

Malaysia’s unique monarchy system involves nine ethnic Malay state rulers taking turns to serve as the country’s king for five-year terms, a tradition maintained since the nation gained independence from Great Britain in 1957. This monarch, known as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or “He Who is Made Lord”, holds a primarily ceremonial role, as administrative authority is vested in the prime minister and the Parliament. However, the king is highly esteemed as the guardian of Islam and Malay tradition, especially among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority. Despite its ceremonial nature, the role of the king has become increasingly involved in politics in recent years.

Sultan Ibrahim, known for his annual road trips to connect with the people in his state, has expressed his willingness to serve as king, showing his commitment to prioritizing the welfare of the people.

Sultan Ibrahim is notorious for his extensive collection of luxury cars and motorcycles, and involvement in various business ventures. He also maintains close ties with current Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and has expressed support for giving Anwar’s one-year-old government more time to strengthen the economy.

As the nominal head of the government and the armed forces, the king plays a crucial role in assenting to all laws, Cabinet appointments, and the dissolution of Parliament for general elections.

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