Malaysia's king abdicates in unexpected and rare move

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Events leading up to Sultan Muhammad V's stepping down have left proverbial tongues wagging in trying to piece together the cause and effect of events: In November, just two years into his five-year tenure, the palace announced that the Sultan would be taking a three month leave of absence from his duties while he recovered from an unnamed illness.

Wan Ahmad Dahlan said Sultan Muhammad V expressed his gratitude to the Malay Rulers, who elected him as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Dec 13, 2016.

On Friday, Mahathir declined to comment on rumours that Sultan Muhammad V had married a former Miss Moscow during the king's leave late a year ago, saying he had no official knowledge of it.

Malaysia's nine royal households take turns to provide a king, who is chosen through a vote in a Council of Rulers, made up of the nine households, most of which are led by a sultan.

"Long live the King!" former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said on Facebook.

The next king in line is the Sultan of Pahang, but the 88-year-old's ailing health has raised questions of who should rightly succeed.

Malaysia's King Muhammad V stepped down from the throne on Sunday. The rulers of nine Malaysian states elect a king from among themselves every five years.

"The highest appreciation to Sultan Muhammad V for his service as the 15th Agong (King)".

Malaysia's Conference of Rulers will convene on January 24 to choose a successor, who will be inaugurated on January 31, state news agency Bernama reported.

Other political figures thanked the King for his service. However, the king's assent is needed before the appointment of a prime minister or senior public officials. But the monarch is highly regarded, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition.

Muhammad V was also the ruler who handed democracy icon and prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim a royal pardon in May, wiping clean his record of multiple charges of sodomy and corruption and releasing him from prison. Another netizen, Shahril Aziz, recalled Sultan Muhammad V's famous quote which went viral, saying: "Remember Tuanku's joke at the opening of the Parliament sitting... the hot phrase at that time was "sit down, don't run" if you still remember".