Malaysia: Malaysians learned Sunday the surprise abdication of their king Muhammad V, after only two years of rule. The reasons for this departure are subject to speculation.
This is a first in the history of the Malaysian monarchy, since its independence in 1957. On Sunday, January 6, the Malaysian Royal Palace announced the renunciation of Muhammad V under Agong, “King of Kings”, after only two years on the throne. “The National Palace announces that his majesty has resigned as the 15th king, and that this decision comes into force on January 6th,” said the Palace. He will not complete his five-year term. Sultan Muhammad V – Muhammad Faris Petra of his real name – had disappeared from the public scene in recent weeks. This absence, officially justified by medical reasons, had given rise to a large number of speculations, suggesting a possible resignation. The Kuala Lumpur daily New Straits Times announced on January 4 an exceptional meeting of the Royal Council concerning the absence of the King.
According to the Malaysian daily The Star, this news is a “sadness” and a “shock” for the Malaysian people and their leaders. Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak spoke on Facebook: “We Malaysians pray for his health and he is protected by Allah. Long live the King. “Netizens reacted strongly to this announcement, showing for the most part a lot of respect for the King, remembering the highlights of his two years of rule. Among them, the famous royal joke, launched to the deputies during his speech at the 14th opening of Parliament continues to animate social networks. “Sit down, and do not run away” became the Sultan’s cult phrase.
An atypical profile and a secret marriage
As many tweets show, he was a popular king for his humor, and for his interest in his people. In May 2018, Muhammad V was particularly talked about by giving grace to the political opponent Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The man, convicted of corruption and sodomy after a highly controversial trial, was jailed since 2015. Nurul Izzah Anwar, daughter of the opposition and MP, once again emphasized this graceful gesture, and took the opportunity to thank the King on Twitter, at the announcement of his abdication. Asked about the future succession to the throne, she added hope “that Malaysia no longer continues to detain political prisoners.”
Despite the formal ban on criticizing him in Malaysia, Sultan Muhammad V was at the heart of many rumors in recent weeks. According to foreign media reports, the monarch secretly married Oksana Voevodina, a 25-year-old Russian Miss, in Moscow. However, the Palace has made no official announcement on this subject, which continues to fuel speculation on the real reasons for his abdication. Despite reports of a lavish wedding, the 49-year-old is known for his great simplicity and atypical profile. He loves extreme sports, and 4×4 rides in nature. The “King of the People”, as some people like to call him, regularly made informal public outings to oversee these appearances.
For now, the Sultan should take over the leadership of the conservative Islamic State of Kelantan. Malaysians are wondering who will succeed him in the Jan. 24 elections. The Federation of Malaysia operates in a unique way: it is a constitutional and elective monarchy in which the king is appointed by the royal council, within the royal families running the different states of the country.