Malaysia’s royalty on Friday chose an influential sultan from the southern state of Johor to be the country’s next king.
The position is largely ceremonial but oversees major appointments such as the prime minister and serves as the head of Islam in the Muslim-majority country and the commander-in-chief of its armed forces.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with a unique arrangement where the throne changes hands every five years between rulers of the nine Malaysian states headed by centuries-old Islamic royalty.
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar was appointed the country’s 17th king after a conference of rulers in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The 64-year-old will be sworn in after the incumbent king’s term expires on January 31 next year, before a coronation ceremony several months later.
The system has been in place since independence from Britain in 1957. The outgoing king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, ascended the throne in 2019.
Ibrahim hails from the wealthy and powerful Johor royal family, the head of which commands its private army.
He has a close relationship with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and often comments on Malaysian politics.
He is a hands-on monarch and a fully trained army, navy and air force officer who studied abroad in the United States.
The king also wields the power to pardon convicted figures. In 2018 Sultan Muhammad V, one of Ibrahim’s predecessors, pardoned Anwar, who had served a jail sentence for sodomy.
The role of the king in Malaysia is accorded considerable prestige, particularly among the country’s Malay Muslim majority. Criticism deemed to incite contempt of the king can attract a jail term.
The last time a Johor sultan became king was 39 years ago when Ibrahim’s father, Sultan Iskandar was proclaimed as Malaysia’s eighth king in 1984.