KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s sultans are set to elect a new king on Friday at a special meeting scheduled to start at 10 a.m. local time (0200 GMT), state news agency Bernama reported.
The king plays a largely ceremonial role in Malaysia, but the monarchy has become more influential in recent years due to prolonged political instability that has prompted the incumbent king to wield rarely used discretionary powers.
Malaysia has a unique system in which the heads of its nine royal families take turns to be monarch for a five-year term. The Southeast Asian country is a parliamentary democracy, with the monarch serving as head of state.
Though the vote for the king is held by secret ballot, appointments have followed a rotation since independence, suggesting that Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, of the southern state of Johor, is in line to be the next king.
The new king will take over from Al-Sultan Abdullah, whose term expires on Jan. 30, 2024.
Unlike other traditional Malaysian rulers, Sultan Ibrahim has been outspoken about politics and has said he has a good relationship with current prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
The sultan, who is known to have a big collection of luxury cars and motorcycles, has wide-ranging business interests from real estate to mining.
King Al-Sultan played an unusually active role in Malaysian politics, picking the country’s last three prime ministers.
The federal constitution grants the monarch only a few discretionary powers, with the king largely required to act upon the advice of the prime minister and cabinet.
It also allows the king to appoint a prime minister who he believes has a parliamentary majority, a power never utilised until 2020, as the premier is typically picked through an election.
King Al-Sultan used those powers during a period of political instability triggered by the defeat of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which had governed Malaysia uninterrupted since independence until 2018.
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)