Crown prince takes over throne of northern Malaysian state amid rare succession feud

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A prince took over a northern Malaysian state's throne Monday, allegedly against his bedridden father's wishes in a bitter succession tussle that has given a rare glimpse into behind-the-scenes court intrigue.

Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra was proclaimed the new sultan of northern Kelantan state following a decision by the Council of Succession, which determines who ascends to the throne, palace official Abdul Halim Hamad said.

Faris has been embroiled in a public dispute with his brother, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry, since their father, Tengku Ismail Petra, fell ill more than a year ago. The feud has embarrassed one of the country's most prominent royal households by exposing their previously little-known rivalries.

Faris' ascension to the throne is unlikely to end the power struggle. Ismail's lawyer Rashid Zulkifli said in a statement issued Sunday that the father would challenge Faris' installation as being unlawful.

Nine of Malaysia's 13 states are ruled by hereditary royal families, who are widely respected among the Muslim Malay majority though their responsibilities are largely ceremonial. The executive power lies with elected state and national representatives.

The state sultans take turns in becoming Malaysia's king for a period of five years — also largely ceremonial, but a post that comes with many privileges.

Ismail has been ill with heart problems since mid-2009. Last September, Faris removed Fakhry, his brother, from the state's powerful Council of Succession. Earlier this year, assailants shot a palace guard under mysterious circumstances. He later died.