Malaysia’s king, Sultan Muhammad has abdicated ending weeks of speculation about his future after he took medical leave and reportedly married a Russian ex-beauty queen. His abdication is a first for Malaysia since the country gained independence from the UK more than 60 years ago and no reason was given in the statement.
The 49-year-old ruler had resigned as Malaysia’s 15th king with immediate effect, cutting short his five-year term.
Sultan Muhammad V, ruler of north-east Kelantan state, took his oath of office in December 2016, becoming one of Malaysia’s youngest constitutional monarchs.
In November, the Sultan married Oksana Voevodina, 25, after the former Miss Moscow converted to Islam while on a two-month medical leave.
The couple wed in Moscow at a lavish ceremony following strict Islamic traditions, including being alcohol free with halal food.
Photos circulating on social media showed the Sultan, 49, wearing a traditional Malaysian national tunic while the bride wore an elaborate white gown, and Islamic headscarf, decorated with crystals.
Sultan Muhammad V had gone on medical leave in November just days before the wedding.
Soon after, Malaysia’s Council of Rulers held a “rare and unscheduled” meeting, amid speculation Sultan Muhammad would step down.
Neither the sultan, the palace, nor the Government had officially confirmed the wedding.
Speculation that Sultan Muhammad V would step down emerged this past week, shortly after he returned from his leave, but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday that he was unaware of any abdication plans.
Under a unique system maintained since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, nine hereditary state rulers take turns as the country’s king for five-year terms.
The Council of Rulers is expected to meet soon to pick the next king.
The monarch’s role is largely ceremonial, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and parliament.
However, the monarch is highly regarded, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition. Criticism of the monarch can attract a jail term.
The Palace said the Kelantan monarch had informed the other rulers of his decision.
The Straits Times reports the other eight rulers were uneasy with the marriage and the possibility of the Russian bride becoming Queen.