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Sultan Ibrahim of Johor sworn in as Malaysia's 17th king

January 31, 2024

Sultan Ibrahim of the southern state of Johor began his five-year reign as king under Malaysia's unique rotating monarchy system.

Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar arrives to take part in the oath taking ceremony as the 17th King of Malaysia at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar has taken the oath of office. His coronation will be held laterImage: MOHD RASFAN/REUTERS

Billionaire Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of the southern state of Johor was installed as Malaysia's 17th king on Wednesday. He replaces Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who will return to lead his home state of Pahang at the end of his five-year tenure as king.

"With this oath, I solemnly and truly profess to be faithful, to rule fairly for Malaysia in accordance with the laws and the constitution," Sultan Ibrahim said during a nationally televised event.

Ibrahim Iskandar took his oath of office at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur and signed the instrument of the proclamation of office in a ceremony witnessed by other royal families, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Cabinet members. A coronation ceremony will be held later.

Nine ethnic Malay state rulers have alternated as king for five-year terms under the world's only such system since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. Malaysia has 13 states, but only nine have royal families.

What is the king's role?

Known as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or He Who is Made Lord, the king of Malaysia plays a largely ceremonial role, as administrative power is left to the prime minister and parliament.

The monarch is the nominal head of the government and the armed forces, and is held up as the protector of Islam and Malay tradition.

All laws, Cabinet appointments and the dissolution of parliament for general elections require his approval. The king also has the power to declare a state of emergency and to pardon criminals.

Who is Sultan Ibrahim?

Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar is of Malay-British descent and is an army, navy and air force officer who studied in the United States.

He also has significant business interests, including a stake in Forest City, a $100 billion (€92 billion) development project off the coast of Johor. The social media-savvy king has a vast collection of luxury and sports cars, as well as private jets. 

Married with six children, he has in the past made annual trips around Johor on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to distribute alms to the poor.

dh/jsi (AP, AFP, Reuters)