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Sultan Ibrahim of Johor to be appointed Malaysia’s king, 34 years after his father's reign

KUALA LUMPUR: Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar will be installed as Malaysia’s king from Jan 31, 2024, the first time he will be holding the post and 34 years after his father’s reign.

The announcement was made in a statement issued by the Keeper of the Royal Seal Syed Danial Syed Ahmad on Friday (Oct 27) after the country’s nine sultans met at the Conference of Rulers to vote on who among them would be the next head of state, also known as Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA), for the next five years. 

“I hereby inform that the Conference of Rulers, during its 263rd (Special) Meeting, held at the National Palace on Friday, October 27, 2023, has agreed to declare that His Royal Highness Sultan Ibrahim, Sultan of Johor Darul Ta’zim, has been chosen as His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XVII for a period of five years commencing from Jan 31, 2024,” the statement said. 

It added that Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, will be appointed deputy king, also for five years from the Jan 31, 2024. 

The term for the current king, Pahang ruler Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, ends on Jan 30, 2024. 

Sultan Ibrahim’s coronation ceremony is expected to be held at a later date. 

The decision to select Sultan Ibrahim as the next king follows the established order of Malaysia’s unique rotational system in which the country’s nine royal households take it in turns to hold the position. The system was agreed to in 1957 when Malaya secured independence from British rule. 

Sultan Ibrahim’s late father Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail was the last Johor ruler to be Yang di-Pertuan Agong between 1984-1989.

Sultan Abdullah eventually picked Bersatu chief Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister. 

Less than a year later, after Muhyiddin’s government coalition fell, the king asked lawmakers to submit a letter each on who they backed as their leader and then decided to appoint United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) member Ismail Sabri Yaakob as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister. 

He subsequently confirmed that Mr Anwar would be Malaysia’s 10th prime minister, leading a unity government. 

When asked to comment on Sultan Abdullah’s reign, constitutional lawyer Lim Wei Jiet told CNA: “The current YDPA faced very challenging and unenviable tasks during his reign, arguably more so than any other YDPAs since independence.” 

Mr Lim, who owns his own legal firm LWJ Advocates and Solicitors, cited how Sultan Abdullah played a “crucial role” to persuade political parties to form a unity government after the 2022 federal polls. 

“Arguably, (this has garnered) some success, as evident from Anwar’s Government which has survived till this day. This is important for the economy and investor confidence in the long run,” he added. 

During his royal address in parliament in February, Sultan Abdullah stressed that he did not intend to interfere with the country’s political affairs but had no choice to avoid a crisis. 

“The political crisis that happened (across) almost four years could have been prevented if the MPs and politicians in the country were able to set aside their differences and unite solely on the basis of protecting the country and its people’s interest,” he said. 

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Political analyst Dr Azmi Hassan of the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research told CNA that Sultan Abdullah has set a “very high benchmark” for his successors on how the YDPA may be called upon to oversee political crises. 

“I would say that it’s very rare (in Malaysia’s history) that the king has needed to step in to make such huge decisions. This has been one of the most challenging (YDPA) terms and I think people will remember how he helped the country through such a difficult time,” he added.

However, Dr Azmi stressed that what Malaysians associate him most with is his humility and down-to-earth personality. 

“He enjoys speaking and engaging with ordinary Malaysians,” he added. 

Political analyst James Chin, who is a Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, concurred that beyond Sultan Abdullah’s contributions politically, the Pahang ruler is a “very popular king” due to his humble demeanour.  

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