Malaysia elects new king after shocking abdication of former ruler

A new king has taken the throne in Malaysia after its former ruler abdicated with little warning earlier this month.

Sultan Abdullah Azlan Shah, the former Crown Prince of the Pahang state, will be sworn in later this month for a five-year term as the head of Malaysia's unique constitutional monarchy. Their previous king, Sultan Muhammad V, stepped down after just two years at the helm amid rumors he married a Russian beauty queen while on medical leave in November.

He did not, however, give any reason for abdicating the throne. Sultan Muhammad V's rule was the shortest in Malaysian history.

Sultan Abdullah Azlan Shah, 59, only just became Crown Prince of Pahang, a peninsular region in central Malaysia, last week when he succeeded his ailing 88-year-old father. He is reportedly a sports lover who holds several positions in athletic bodies, including soccer governing body FIFA. Sultan Abdullah was expected to become king, Al-Jazeera reports, as his family was next in line after Sultan Muhammad V.

The role of king, known in Malaysia as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, is a largely ceremonial one in their distinctive governance. He does not participate in the country's day-to-day operations - that job rotates among nine monarchical heads of state. Every five years, those nine leaders elect the king. The king does, however, have many more big-picture powers, acting as the country's head of Islam and chief of armed forces and appointing the prime minister.

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Sultan Muhammad V stepped down after just two years at the the helm amid rumors that he wed a Russian beauty queen while on medical leave in November

Sultan Muhammad V stepped down after just two years at the the helm amid rumors that he wed a Russian beauty queen while on medical leave in November (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

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Malaysia has only had 15 kings before Sultan Abdullah Azlan Shah, as the role originated in 1957 when Malaysia, then known as the Federation of Malaya, declared their independence from the British Empire.

Since then, no king has ever failed to fulfill a five-year term, until Sultan Muhammad V. He was reportedly known for his love of living life on the edge - with a penchant for extreme sports such as off-road driving, shooting and endurance challenges, the BBC reports.

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His short rule was marred with controversy, as one of his first moves was to pardon to a former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was charged with sodomy. Then, in November, images of what appeared to be his wedding to former Miss Moscow Oksana Voevodina, 25, circulated online. She has since reportedly converted to Islam, and a photo showing the beauty queen wearing a hijab was posted social media.

Sultan Muhummad V has yet to speak out about his abdication.