The king of Malaysia, Sultan Muhammad V has stepped down amidst rumours that he had married a former Russian beauty queen, ending weeks of speculation about his future.
Sunday’s announcement by royal officials follows a leave of absence by the head of state. Sultan Muhammad V’s decision also marks the first time a king has abdicated in the Muslim-majority country since it gained independence from Britain in 1957.
“The National Palace informs that his majesty has resigned as the 15th king effective January 6,” a statement from the Comptroller of the Royal Household, Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz said.
“His majesty tells the people of Malaysia to continue to be united to maintain unity, tolerance, and work together,” the statement added without giving any reason for the abdication.
There had been questions over the reign of the 49-year-old king who ascended to the throne in December 2016 since he took a leave of absence for medical treatment in November.
Reports then circulated online that the king who was fond of four-wheel driving and other extreme sports had married a former Miss Moscow, Oksana Voevodina at a lavish ceremony in Russia. Royal officials however did not respond to the rumours.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with a unique arrangement where the throne rotates every five years between the rulers of the nine Malaysian states headed by centuries-old Islamic royalty.