The Malaysian king unexpectedly abdicated Sunday after just two years on the throne -- with some reports pegging his early exit as being related to his marriage to a Russian beauty queen last year.
The palace said in a statement King Sultan Muhammad V had resigned as Malaysia’s 15th king with immediate effect, cutting short his five-year term. The statement did not give a reason for the 49-year-old ruler’s abdication.
“His Highness has worked towards fulfilling his responsibilities entrusted to him as the head of state, serving as a pillar of stability, source of justice, the core of unity…for the people,” the statement said.
The exit of Sultan Muhammad V, who took his oath of office in December 2016 to become one of Malaysia’s youngest constitutional monarchs, comes after weeks of speculation he'd married 25-year-old former Miss Moscow, Oksana Voevodina.
Reports in Russian and British media and on social media featured pictures of the wedding, which reportedly took place in Moscow in November, while the king was on a two-month medical leave.
Neither the sultan, the palace nor the government has officially confirmed the wedding.
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. The sultan was the ruler of the northern state of Kelantan and his resignation is the first time a monarch has stepped down before completing the five-year tenure.
The monarch's role is largely ceremonial since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and parliament. But the monarch is highly regarded, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition.
National news agency Bernama reported members of the country’s royal families agreed on Monday to vote for a new king on Jan. 24.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.