Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of central Pahang state was crowned Thursday as Malaysia’s 16th king under a unique rotating monarchy system, nearly a month after the sudden abdication of Sultan Muhammad V.
Garbed in aqua blue regalia, Sultan Abdullah, 59, took his oath of office in a nationally televised ceremony at a cavernous hall in the national palace. Dozens of dignitaries, led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his Cabinet ministers, attended the event.
Nine ethnic Malay state rulers take turns as the country’s king for five-year terms under the world’s only such system, which has been maintained since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.
Sultan Muhammad V, 49, of northeast Kelantan state, abruptly resigned Jan. 6 as Malaysia’s king after just two years on the throne in the first abdication in the nation’s history. No reason was given, but it came after he reportedly married a 25-year-old former Russian beauty queen in November.
British-educated Sultan Abdullah, a prominent figure in sport bodies, was sworn in Thursday after inspecting a military honor guard and receiving a 21-gun salute at Parliament.
He is a council member of the world football governing body FIFA, president of the Asian Hockey Federation, and an executive board member of the International Hockey Federation.
Known as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or “He Who is Made Lord,” Malaysia’s king plays a largely ceremonial role, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and Parliament. But the monarch is highly regarded as the guardian of Islam and Malay tradition, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority.
The king is the nominal head of the government and armed forces. All laws, Cabinet appointments and the dissolution of Parliament for general elections require his assent. The king also issues pardons for criminals. Malaysia’s Constitution allocates some 5 million ringgit ($1.21 million) a year for the expenses of the king and his household, including palace maintenance, although the sum can be increased with Cabinet approval.