Sultan billionaire sworn in as Malaysia’s new King

Sultan billionaire sworn in as Malaysia’s new King
Malaysian Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim (in white) speaking to new Malaysian King, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar (in black) at the oath ceremony in the National Palace, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by Mohd Rasfan, via AP, 31st January 2024


Nuno Daun

Southeast Asia & Pacific Team 

Global Human Rights Defence

Malaysia’s Monarchical System

After Malaysia gained independence from the British Empire in 1957, the heads of Malaysia’s nine royal families rotate the throne every five years. 

Malaysia has a parliamentary democratic system and a unique rotational monarchy, where the monarch acts as the head of state, as opposed to an elected President. However, the role of the head of state is largely ceremonial. Although, in recent years, due to political instability, the King played a larger role in the country’s political landscape, having picked the last three Prime Ministers, who are usually selected through an electoral system. Additionally, the monarch has the power to pardon people accused or convicted of crimes, and an act of contempt against the King is a crime punishable by law. 

The heads of the nine royal families are the Sultans of nine of Malaysia’s thirteen states.

The New King

The new King, the Sultan of the state of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar was sworn in as the 17th King of Malaysia on the 31st of January. 

As Malaysia faces a crackdown on corruption, it seems likely that the new King will be called on to adjudicate which political party yields more power. Malaysia is still feeling the turmoil of its political instability, with the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak currently serving an 18-year prison sentence, after being convicted on corruption charges. 

Unlike some of the previous monarchs, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar has been very vocal about his stances and intentions, as has even condemned the “Arabization” of Malay culture, and called for moderation in a country where there are many Chinese and Indian people who are not Muslim. Malaysia is a majority-Muslim nation. Moreover, the Sultan has previously expressed that he does not intend to be a “puppet king,” and does not wish to engage in “games with politicians.” 

The Sultan, one of the richest men in the country whose family is estimated to have a net worth of $5.7bn, seems to have a good relationship with the current Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Thus, moving closer to creating political stability, since the Sultan has previously talked against other parties opposing Ibrahim’s government. 

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