Malaysia's king abdicates in historic first

Sultan Muhammad V has abdicated

Sultan Muhammad V has abdicated

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysian King Sultan Muhammad V abdicated on Sunday in an unexpected move, after just two years on the throne.

Malaysian officials confirmed the news this afternoon following weeks of speculation about Sultan Muhammad V's future.

It follows weeks of speculation after the royal took medical leave, followed by online rumours and pictures purported to show him marrying a former Miss Moscow in Russian Federation.

Sultan Muhammad V's decision is the first time a king has stepped aside during his five-year term on the throne.

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.

Mr Ahmad also said in a statement Monday that the new king would be sworn in on January 31.

"We Malaysians pray for his health and that he is protected by Allah".

But the 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.

Sultan Nazrin Shah of northern Perak state is the acting king, local media reported.

Sultan Muhammad V pardoned Anwar Ibrahim, who is expected to become the nation's next premier.

It added that the king is ready to resume working on the development of the state of Kelantan, where he is Sultan.

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.

Other political figures thanked the King for his service.

However, the Agong does not have the power to dismiss a prime minister. For example, the Agong is the custodian of Islam in the country and has three major functions; appointing the Prime Minister, dissolving parliament to make way for elections, and to call for meetings involving the conference of rulers.

Muhammad V was previously married to a member of another Malay royal family in 2004 but the couple divorced in 2008. Former premier Najib Razak, who the king reportedly called "uncle", had stopped short of conceding defeat earlier that day, saying instead the king could decide the next prime minister because no party achieved a simple majority.

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