By Kurniawati Kamarudin
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- While the nation was shocked and saddened when Sultan Muhammad V resigned as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong last Sunday evening, the people are now waiting with bated breath as to who would succeed him.
It is deemed a great honour for the people of the state whose sultan is elected the Yang di-Pertuan Agong from among the rulers of the nine states that are constitutionally headed by Malay rulers.
Yesterday, the Conference of Rulers fixed Jan 24 to elect the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong and his deputy while a special meeting on the swearing-in ceremony for the new King and the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be convened on Jan 31.
Yesterday's meeting was attended by six sultans, namely Sultan of Terengganu Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, Raja Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, Yang Dipertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir, Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah and Sultan of Kedah Sultan Sallehuddin Sultan Badlishah.
The developments over the last few days would have aroused curiosity as to how Malaysia's foremost institution, the monarchy, carries out the election process.
In Malaysia, which practises constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, the election of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is done according to a rotation system every five years.
Sultan Muhammad V stepping down as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong before completing his five-year term is a first in the history of Malaysia. He took his oath of office on Dec 13, 2016, and was installed as King on April 24, 2017.
Going by the rotation system, the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah, is scheduled to be elected the next Yang di-Pertuan Agong but the ruler is reportedly not in good health. The next in line is the Johor ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, followed by Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak.
So far, only the rulers of Pahang, Johor and Perak have not been elected Yang di-Pertuan Agong for the second round of the rotation system.
According to constitutional law expert Associate Prof Shamrahayu Abd Aziz, the election of a sultan as Yang di-Pertuan Agong is under the discretionary power of the rulers and the decision is made by the Conference of Rulers through a secret ballot.
The sultan who is elected Yang di-Pertuan Agong must consent to the outcome of the secret ballot.
"In other words, the sultan whose name is nominated as Yang di-Pertuan Agong must consent to the vote outcome.
"Without the ruler's consent, he cannot be appointed the Yang di-Pertuan Agong," she told Bernama when contacted yesterday.
DECISION BY CONFERENCE OF RULERS
Shamrahayu said the Conference of Rulers already has the nomination list for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that they had consented to earlier.
Considering that the rotation system is now in its second round since the establishment of the Yang di-Pertuan's office in 1957, all nine states have had their rulers serving as the King during the first round.
"Hence, I feel that the (nomination) list (for Yang di-Pertuan Agong) is based on the consensus reached by the rulers. Based on my observation, the previous elections may have relied on the discretionary power of the Conference of Rulers or on the decision of the sultan who was nominated," she said.
Since the nominated sultan needs to give his consent, the nomination and election of the ruler concerned will largely depend on his decision.
According to the Third Schedule of the Federal Constitution, a ruler must get at least five votes in order for him to be elected Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Speculation over Sultan Muhammad V's position first went viral on social media after a local English daily reported that the Conference of Rulers had convened an unscheduled meeting just after Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Nazrin Shah's duties as Yang di-Pertuan Agong ended on Dec 31.
Sultan Nazrin had exercised the duties of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after Sultan Muhammad V went on leave for two months, starting Nov 2, to seek medical treatment.
On Nov 24, the foreign media carried reports and photographs of Sultan Muhammad V's wedding that took place overseas. However, Istana Negara did not make any official announcement on the matter.
Shamrahayu also felt that the resignation of Sultan Muhammad V should be viewed positively so as not to affect the reputation of the institution of monarchy.
There is no provision in the constitution requiring the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to explain in detail his reasons for stepping down as the King.
As citizens, the people should accept Sultan Muhammad V's decision, which has received the consent of the Conference of Rulers, she said.
"I think the institution of monarchy must remain relevant for the sake of this country's sovereignty. True, there will be certain perceptions of the monarchy with the resignation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Whatever it is, right from the time this nation was formed, the Federal Constitution has clear provisions for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to resign," she said.
Hence, she added, the resignation of a Yang di-Pertuan Agong was not something unexpected as far as the law was concerned.
The institution of monarchy, she stressed, has its own strengths in terms of its history and contributions it has made.
"We've to view the institution of monarchy positively. So we shouldn't pass comments that can smear the image of the institution.
"The important thing is, our country should continue to administer the country harmoniously and leave no space for our monarchy to be criticised or attacked with speculation and assumptions that can create suspicions in or outside the country," she said.
SYMBOL OF NATION'S DIGNITY, SOVEREIGNTY
Besides being the symbol of unity among Malaysia's multiracial society, the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is also the symbol of dignity and sovereignty of this federation that is made up of 13 states – nine of which have constitutional heads – and three federal territories.
"This is what makes our constitutional monarchy unique as no other country has such a system," said Shamrahayu, adding that the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was established in 1957.
If studied more closely, the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the manifestation of the consensus among the various states which have their own sultans, she explained.
"The consensus of the Malay rulers acted as a catalyst for the establishment of the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the federal level," she said, adding that Article 32 of the Federal Constitution clearly stated that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was the supreme head of the federation.
Translated by Rema Nambiar