KUALA LUMPUR: Sultan Muhammad V stepped down as Malaysia's king on Sunday (Jan 6) after just two years on the throne - marking a first in the country's history.
The king had officially notified the Malay Rulers on his abdication through a letter sent to the Secretary of the Conference of Rulers, said the comptroller of the royal household in a statement.
“In discharging the wishes of His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, Istana Negara hereby announces that His Majesty is abdicating as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong effective Jan 6, 2019, pursuant to Article 32 (3) of the Federal Constitution,” said Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz.
Wan Ahmad Dahlan said Sultan Muhammad V expressed his gratitude to the Malay Rulers, who elected him as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Dec 13, 2016.
He also expressed his appreciation to Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the government for their cooperation in governing the country.
"During his tenure as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, His Majesty worked to fulfil his responsibilities and the trust placed in him as the head of state, serving as the pillar of stability, the source of justice and as an umbrella of the solidarity and unity of the people,” said Wan Ahmad Dahlan.
The comptroller said that Sultan Muhammad V, as the supreme commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces, was proud of the sacrifices and devotion shown to him and the country over the years.
“His Majesty hopes that all Malaysians will continue to stay united, tolerant and in agreement in shouldering the responsibility to safeguard the country’s sovereignty so that Malaysia will remain in peace and harmony,” he said.
The former king was ready to return to working on the development of Kelantan together with the state government and the people, Wan Ahmad Dahlan added.
In Malaysia's constitutional monarchy system, the election for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is held on a rotational basis every five years.
The Conference of Rulers must meet to elect a new king no later than four weeks once the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong falls vacant.
According to the rotation in place, the Sultan of Pahang would be next in line.
Rumours of the abdication were circulating online earlier in the week, although Mahathir said he did not receive official word on the matter.
"I didn't receive letters or any official indication about anything, so I am not going to talk about it," said Mahathir at a press conference on Friday.
Mahathir also said that "as far as (he) knew", the king had resumed duties after going on leave for two months up until Dec 31.
According to online reports in November, the 49-year-old monarch recently married 25-year-old former beauty queen Oksana Voevodina, who held the title of Miss Moscow in 2015.
The reports featured pictures of the supposed wedding, which were said to have taken place on Nov 22 in a concert hall in the upscale Moscow suburb of Barvikha.
Mahathir said then that he did not have official confirmation on the wedding.