Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, the billionaire ruler of Malaysia’s southern Johor state, was sworn in Wednesday as the country’s 17th king under a unique rotating monarchy system.
Sultan Brings Colorful Personality to Role
The 65-year-old sultan, who is also known as Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, brings a colorful personality to the role. He is an outspoken figure who holds strong opinions and is seen as a modernist.
His accession to the throne brings renewed scrutiny of the government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. As Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, Sultan Ibrahim will have a role in appointing the prime minister and approving legislation and could help steer Malaysia’s political course.
- Sultan is known for his lavish lifestyle and owns one of the largest car collections in the world with over 300 luxury vehicles including Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and Harley Davidson motorcycles
- He enjoys touring his state on his Harley Davidson fat boy motorcycle
- Sultan is passionate about sports cars and racing
- He has ties to the military – his private army is reportedly 500 strong
- One of his cars is a BMW once owned by Adolf Hitler, a gift from the ruler of Brunei
The flamboyant sultan is also an avid social media user and regularly posts about his hobbies and opinions to over two million Facebook followers.
His accession comes at a time of political turbulence with Malaysian politics long dominated by a multi-ethnic coalition that has been beset by infighting. Having an assertive monarch could help exert stability, some analysts believe.
Grandeur and Tradition as Sultan Becomes King
Sultan Ibrahim, dressed in brown and gold royal regalia, took his oath of office in a ceremony at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s biggest city.
Hundreds of dignitaries and guests, including Prime Minister Ismail and other Malaysian politicians, royals from different states watched as he swore fealty to Malaysia’s constitution.
|Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim
|Leader of Malaysia’s Government
|Sultan Nazrin Shah
|Ruler of Perak State
|Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah
|Ruler of Pahang State
Sultan Ibrahim inspected a military honor guard before taking his place on the royal throne with Queen Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, the sultana of Johor state. He then received greetings from federal lawmakers and took part in a traditional musical performance.
The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute and Islamic prayers.
According to tradition, the monarch’s role is largely ceremonial as a symbol of the unity of the country’s ethnic Malay majority. But Malaysia’s constitution empowers the king with roles in important matters such as appointing the prime minister, approving legislation and hearing the advice of various state bodies.
Selection Part of Rotating Monarchy
Malaysia has a unique arrangement in which the national throne changes hands every five years between state rulers. Sultan Ibrahim’s predecessor, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, stepped down as Malaysia’s king on January 31 after his term expired.
The nine heirs from Malaysia’s royal families typically meet in Kuala Lumpur every five years to elect the next king. The ruler of Pahang state was next in line but he stepped aside due to poor health, paving the way for Sultan Ibrahim to become the next king.
Sultan Ibrahim, 65, was named the state of Johor’s successor ruler in 1981, taking over after his father’s death. He formally ascended as the state’s sultan in 2015, and became one of Malaysia’s youngest royals to assume the role at the age of 23.
In keeping with the rotation, Sultan Ibrahim’s reign as Malaysia’s king will expire in five years unless he wins a vote from other royals to extend his term.
What’s Next: Grandeur of Formal Coronation
The pomp-filled ceremony will be followed by a formal coronation in the coming months where Sultan Ibrahim will replace the currently-used crown with a formal coronation crown. He’ll take part in another series of ceremonies and processions after being bestowed full title of His Royal Highness Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di-Pertuan Agong XVII Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, the 17th King of Malaysia.
After the coronation, Sultan Ibrahim will continue his active role in politics and speaking out on issues close to him. With Prime Minister Anwar still settling into his new government, the king’s influence will be closely watched to see if he takes a hands-on approach to steering the country’s political sphere.
His reign also brings a renewed focus on Malaysia’s royal families. As full-fledged constitutional monarchs, Malaysia’s Islamic royalty command great respect, reverence and even mystique. Royals are treated with extreme deference in the Muslim-majority country. Public criticism of the families can sometimes lead to arrests under laws forbidding insults against the king and royals.
Their extreme wealth and opulent lifestyles receive heavy coverage in foreign media though is seldom publicised domestically in depth. Sultan Ibrahim’s rule is expected to embolden calls for reforms to curb expansive power of modern Malaysia’s royal dynasties, who banks enormous sums of wealth derived from the public purse.
With Sultan Ibrahim’s colorful background and reputation for being outspoken, his reign will be one to watch in the coming years.
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