If not for the intense rumours and speculation on social media since the reported wedding of Sultan Muhammad V to a former Russian beauty queen last November, his resignation yesterday would have come as a shock to Malaysians.
- The only Agong to reign without a queen, first Agong to resign
- Historic reign with the transfer of federal power to PH
- Accession to Kelantan throne was challenged by his father Sultan Ismail Petra in 2010
- Wedding to Russian beauty said to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” that saw him losing the favour of the sultans
- Only Johor and Selangor sultans from the seven rulers who can vote on his position as Agong defended him
- Advised to quit or rulers had the minimum five votes to vote him out
- Next in line as Agong is Pahang sultan, who is ill, followed by Johor and then Perak
- Coronation of new king likely by April
It is the first time that an Agong stepped down from the throne before the end of his five-year reign that is based on a unique rotation system involving nine sultans in the Malaysian federation.
The post of Agong was created in 1957, the year Malaya gained independence.
Kelantan’s Sultan Muhammad V’s 755-day reign as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after he took over from Sultan Abdul Halim Shah of Kedah was not the shortest.
In 1960, Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah of Selangor died just about 140 days after he was appointed as the second Agong.
Sultan Muhammad V was 47 when he was elected as the 15th Agong by the Conference of Rulers in October 2016, becoming among the younger sultans to helm the position.
His official installation ceremony was held on April 24, 2017.
During his brief period on the throne, Sultan Muhammad V witnessed the peaceful transfer of federal power to Pakatan Harapan, following the historic defeat of Barisan Nasional in the general election last year.
He will also be remembered as the only Agong to reign without a queen, or Raja Permaisuri Agong.
At the end of last November, social media was abuzz with pictures of his marriage to Oksana Voevodina who was crowned Miss Moscow in 2015.
The wedding was reported by the British press, but no official statement was issued from the palace to confirm or deny the reports.
Sultan Muhammad V’s accession to the Kelantan throne was also not without controversy.
He was previously known as Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra, before he was proclaimed the Sultan of Kelantan in a move challenged by his father, Sultan Ismail Petra.
Sultan Ismail had suffered a major stroke was deemed not fit by Kelantan’s Council of Succession to remain on the throne under Article 29A of the state constitution.
Sultan Ismail disagreed with the council’s decision to declare his son as the Sultan of Kelantan, and in 2010 his lawyers filed a petition to the Federal Court to declare the appointment as unconstitutional.
Tengku Faris’ proclamation went ahead in September 2010, when he also took the name Sultan Muhammad V.
According to The Malaysian Insight (TMI), when reports of the November 22 wedding and photographs made their rounds on social media, it just became a matter of when the Malay rulers would convene a meeting to discuss the future of Sultan Muhammad V as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
And once the Agong understood that he had lost the favour of the majority of the sultans, he had little choice but to resign.
Malaysiakini reported that the Conference of Rulers will convene a meeting today to discuss the selection of a new Agong, but it is unclear if a decision would be made immediately.
In the interim, Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah, who is the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong, will be the acting king.
It was reported that courtiers from among the nine palaces said that it was not unanimous but clear that the majority of rulers felt that the King had to step down following the news of his marriage to the 25-year-old doctor’s daughter who has worked previously as a model in China and Thailand.
There were photographs and video clips from her modelling career that raised more than eyebrows in the conservative parts of Malaysia, more so in Sultan Muhammad V’s home state of Kelantan, which is run along puritanical lines by the ruling Islamist PAS government.
Rumours of a possible meeting among the rulers scheduled for January 2 was already circulating just as the Perak ruler ended his two-month stint as the acting-King on December 31.
The unofficial meetings among the rulers were finally held on January 3 and 4 to discuss the King’s wedding or the “the straw that broke the camel’s back” as described by a courtier privy to the discussions, TMI reported.
The report said palace staff confirmed that the rulers from Perlis, Johor, Perak, Kedah and Terengganu had met at the Istana Perlis at 10am last Friday (Jan 4) to discuss the matter.
“The rulers agonised over this move. They did not want it to be a secret vote so a resolution was put in place so that every ruler knew each other’s position,” one courtier reportedly told TMI.
Only one ruler, the Sultan of Pahang, did not attend any of the meetings as he is incapacitated.
The Kelantan royal household did not attend the unofficial discussions as the King is the Sultan of Kelantan.
TMI reported that only the Selangor and Johor sultans among the remaining seven rulers who can vote on Sultan Muhammad V’s position as Yang di-Pertuan Agong defended him.
The other five agreed he should step down.
It is understood that the Raja of Perlis and the Raja Perempuan of Perlis then met Sultan Muhammad V for a private dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night (Jan 5), which ended in the wee hours of Sunday morning at 12.40am.
It was reported that courtiers said the King was advised to step down at the private dinner.
“Since the King decided to resign, there was no official vote. But he was told that if he didn’t quit, the Malay rulers had the minimum five votes to vote him out,” a source was quoted as saying.
By convention, the Agong is elected on rotation based on a set list.
According to the list, the next in line is Pahang. However, Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah has been ill for some time and his son, Crown Prince Tengku Abdullah, is the regent.
The situation has some similarities when it was Kelantan’s turn. At the time, Sultan Muhammad V’s father Sultan Ismail Petra was also ill.
However, a key difference was Sultan Muhammad V was already the official monarch of the state when it was Kelantan’s turn.
In contrast, Tengku Abdullah is not the official Pahang sultan but only a regent.
If the Conference of Rulers finds that it cannot elect the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong from Pahang, the next in line will be Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar of Johor.
After Johor is Perak.
If the selection process goes smoothly, the new Agong is set to go through the coronation ceremony by April.