Malaysia has a new king, now will politics finally take a back seat?
Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, 65, took the throne as Malaysia’s 17th king on Wednesday. A billionaire from wealthy Johor with a penchant for fast cars, helicopters and adventure, his reputation for plain speaking could potentially prove decisive in controlling Malaysia’s bickering politicians.
Hopefully “the focus now can be on the people’s welfare instead of politicians,” said Jaafar Ali, 49, reflecting the views of many Malaysians worn down by endless political drama.
Sultan Ibrahim has promised to support fair governance and peace at a time of mounting public expectations on Malaysia’s monarchy – which rotates among the heads of the country’s nine royal families every five years – to squash the rifts that have unseated two governments over the past half-decade alone.
“I, with all my ability, will at all times preserve Islam, and stand firmly for fair administration and peace in the country,” he said as he read the oath of office.
While Malaysia’s king is limited by the constitution and traditionally seen as more of a ceremonial ruler who is above politics, recent turmoil has prodded the monarchy into a more active stance.
“There are 222 of you in parliament. There are over 30 million [Malaysians] outside. I’m not with you, I’m with them,” the ruler said in an interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times published in December.
Malaysia has endured an unprecedented period of political turmoil since 2020, when a political coup caused the downfall of then-prime minister Mahathir’s government and led to two regime changes in as many years.
The institution of the monarchy played a pivotal role in smoothing over the fracas that left a rudderless government grappling with the twin health and economic crises caused by the Covid-19