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Explainer: New Malaysia king to be decided by five-vote majority this week

Explainer: New Malaysia king to be decided by five-vote majority this week

Malaysia's National Palace is seen through its main gate in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: AFP/MOHD RASFAN)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will get a new king on Thursday (Jan 24) when the Council of Rulers meet to hold a vote.

The election is in line with Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy, where one of the nine Malay rulers or sultans will ascend the federal throne to become the king for a five-year term.

It was earlier reported that Pahang's ruler is the next in line, followed by Johor.

The office of the head of state fell vacant when Sultan Muhammad V, in an unprecedented move, stepped down on Jan 6. It followed reports that he married a former beauty queen in Russia in November during a purported two-month medical leave.

After the election on Thursday, the new king will be sworn in on Jan 31. Here's how the election process works:


The Conference of Rulers will carry out its functions as provided for under Article 38(6)(a) of the Federal Constitution to elect a new king.

Only the nine Malay rulers among the members of the Conference of Rulers will participate in the election process.

The governors of the other states (Penang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak) are not involved.

READ: Shock, sadness in Malaysia over Sultan Muhammad V's resignation as king

The Constitution states that a ruler is qualified to be elected king - unless he is a minor or does not desire to be elected as king.

A ruler is also deemed as not qualified to exercise the functions of the king if the Conference of Rulers resolves that he is unsuitable by reason of infirmity of mind or body or for any other reason.

Constitutional law expert Associate Professor Shamrahayu A Aziz said matters involving the election of the king and his deputy, or dismissing the king was at the discretion of the Conference of Rulers.

On the election process, Section 2 of the Third Schedule of the Federal Constitution states that the Conference of Rulers has to offer the office of the king to the ruler qualified for election and whose state is first on the election list.

If the ruler concerned turns down the offer, the Conference of Rulers can offer the office to the ruler of the next state on the election list and so on until the ruler accepts the offer.


The election of the king is based on a rotation basis agreed upon by all the nine Malay rulers.

The first cycle of the rotation, from 1957 (when the office of the king was established) to 1994, saw Negeri Sembilan at the top of the election list, followed by Selangor, Perlis, Terengganu, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Johor and Perak.

The election list will undergo variations with each election. After each election, the state whose ruler was elected as king shall be transferred to the end of the list.

Assoc Prof Shamrahayu also pointed to Section 4(2)(b) of the Third Schedule, which states that when “there is a change in the ruler of a state then on the list, that state shall be transferred to the end of the list”.

Pahang's Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah during his proclamation ceremony on Jan 15, 2019. (Photo: Bernama)

In accordance with this provision, there is a possibility that Pahang might find itself being put at the end of the election list as Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was only proclaimed the ruler of the state on Jan 15.

“There is a possibility that Pahang, which is currently on top of the election list, will be placed at the end of the list due to the change in the state’s ruler. However, the final decision is at the discretion of the Conference of Rulers,” she said.

READ: New Pahang ruler well-versed in state affairs, humble royal figure


The official portal of the Conference of Rulers, meanwhile, has outlined the proceedings involving the election of the king.

The election is carried out by a secret ballot using unnumbered ballot papers but marked with the same pen and ink.

The ballot papers are then inserted into the ballot box. As soon as the result is announced, the ballot papers are destroyed in the presence of the rulers.

The ruler with the shortest reign who is not listed as a candidate for the office of the king or deputy king is appointed to count the ballot papers together with the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal.

Only the rulers, Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal and the assistant secretary to the Conference of Rulers are involved in the election process.

READ: Malaysian king’s shock resignation unlikely to affect respect for monarchy, say analysts


During the election process, the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal will provide each ruler with a ballot paper (with the name of only one candidate) and each ruler is requested to indicate whether or not the candidate is suitable to be elected as king.

The candidate must secure a majority of five votes before the ruler presiding over the election meeting offers him the office of the king.

If the successful candidate declines the offer or if the candidate fails to secure the required number of votes, the voting process is repeated with the nomination of the second-most senior ruler in the seniority list of rulers.

The process is completed only after the ruler has accepted the offer of office of serving as king.

This will be followed by the Conference of Rulers declaring the ruler concerned as the king who will hold office for a term of five years.


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