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Malaysia’s ‘vocal’ new king to bring scrutiny to Anwar’s government amid clamour for political stability

Ahead of his coronation for his five-year term in Malaysia’s unique monarchy – which is shared among the nine rulers of the Malay states – the outspoken Sultan Ibrahim made it clear he would brook little of the political chicanery which defined his predecessor’s rule.

“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 as a warning to the country’s lawmakers in an interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times newspaper published in December.

The enduring rivalries of various political factions threaten to undercut the economic and social policy plans of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s year-old government, political watchers say, and the premier may benefit from the ballast only the top royal can give.

“Political reality over the last five years or so has led to the expansion of the role of the monarch,” said Adib Zalkapli, a Malaysia director with political risk consultancy BowerGroupAsia.

“When democratically elected leaders failed, the Agong played the role of defender of Malaysia’s democracy,” Adib said, using the official Malay title of the king. “So the institution of the Yang DiPertuan Agong will continue to evolve and its role will continue to be shaped by political reality.”

Sultan Ibrahim even suggested that the MACC report to the king, instead of parliament, to address allegations of political pressure on and abuse of power in getting the anti-corruption agency to pursue cases against Malaysia’s elites, according to his Straits Times interview.

Sultan Ibrahim enjoyed a reputation as a hands-on ruler. Since he was crowned as Sultan of Johor in 2015, he has been known to ask chief ministers to appraise him of any major decision before the