Malaysia's royal families elected a new king Thursday after the last monarch abdicated following his reported marriage to a Russian ex-beauty queen, with a sports-loving sultan in pole position for the role.
Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of central Pahang state has been named the country's new king. Sultan Abdullah is a key figure in several international sports bodies. He will be sworn in on Jan. 31 for a five-year term. If he does not become king, he could refuse the post, or be deemed unsuitable, then the next in line for the throne is the sultan of Johor state. The sultan of Johor, which borders Singapore, is one of the country's most wealthy and powerful Islamic rulers, and has his own private army. To be elected as the national king, a sultan must be supported by at least five of the state rulers.
The previous king, Sultan Muhammad V, stepped aside earlier this month following just two years on the throne after reports surfaced he had married the former Miss Moscow while on medical leave. There was great shock across Malaysia at the first abdication of a monarch in the Muslim-majority country's history.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with a unique arrangement where the national throne changes hands every five years between rulers of the country's nine states headed by royalty. Eight of the state sultans arrived at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur for the Conference of Rulers, a special meeting during which they picked a new king for a five-year term, official news agency Bernama reported. The only one absent was Sultan Muhammad V, who remains the sultan of the northeastern state of Kelantan, despite having abdicated as the national monarch. Under the rotation system, the central state of Pahang is next in line to provide the monarch.