KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Council of Rulers will meet on Jan 24 to elect a new king and deputy, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal Syed Danial Syed Ahmad said on Monday (Jan 7).
The new rulers will then be sworn in on Jan 31.
Syed Danial said the dates were decided by the rulers during their meeting at the Istana Negara on Monday morning.
The meeting was attended by the rulers of Terengganu, Perlis, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Perak and Kedah.
In Malaysia's constitutional monarchy system, the election for the king is held on a rotational basis every five years. A vote must be held within four weeks of the position becoming vacant.
The king assumes a largely ceremonial role, including acting as custodian of Islam in the Muslim-majority country. The king's assent is also needed for the appointment of a prime minister and various senior officials.
According to the rotation in place, the Sultan of Pahang would be next in line. This is followed by the Sultan of Johor.
However, succession may not be as straightforward this time as the next in line to the throne, Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang state, is elderly and reported to be ailing. Royal officials said he did not attend Monday's meeting due to ill health.
Earlier in the day, prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said the government hopes that Malaysia’s new king will be selected as soon as possible.
He said the election had to be expedited because he had to have an audience with the king on certain matters.
"The government accepts the decision of (the Sultan of Kelantan) Sultan Muhammad V to step down," the prime minister told reporters after opening the Terengganu office of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
"It is in accordance with the constitution."
GAME OF THRONES
Sultan Nazrin Shah of northern Perak state is the acting king, as he is the current deputy and performed Sultan Muhammad V's duties after he went on medical leave at the start of November.
Despite mounting speculation in recent days the king might give up the throne, there was still palpable shock across the country at the first abdication of a king since the end of British rule in 1957.
"I am naturally stunned. The (king) is a man of the people," Siti Nur Fahimah Razali, a 25-year-old trader from the king's home state of Kelantan, told the New Straits Times newspaper.
The relatively youthful Muhammad V was known for his relaxed persona and love of off-road driving and other extreme sports.
But there had been growing unease at his reign after reports emerged in foreign media in late November - several weeks after the king went on leave - that he had married former Russian beauty queen Oksana Voevodina in a lavish ceremony in Moscow.
Royal officials in Malaysia have so far not commented on the reported wedding, or said what prompted him to take medical leave.
But such a marriage is unlikely to sit well with the country's conservative royal households.