Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – When a sultan from Johor last ascended the Malaysian throne in the late 1980s, the country was embroiled in a constitutional crisis as then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tried to clip the judicial wing.
Now, with the current Sultan of Johor inaugurated as King, Malaysia is on the brink of a corruption crackdown that has ensnared some of the most prominent politicians of the Mahathir era, an attempt to pardon disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak, and an attempt to become part of state power. The country is facing continued political maneuvering. Reorganization started in 2018.
Malaysian political analyst Oh Aye Sun told Al Jazeera: “It is very likely that at some point a decision will be required on which side will have stronger control of the parliament.” Told. “It could happen at any time.”
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, 65, was sworn in as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong in a ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, which was broadcast live on state television.
He will serve for five years as part of Malaysia’s unique rotating monarchy, where the country’s nine hereditary rulers take turns becoming the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
While the king is a constitutional monarch who serves as head of state and commander of the armed forces, the upheaval that followed the historic elections in 2018 meant that the once-dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) was forced to resign for the first time in the post-war period. This is due to defeat. Independence – The monarch began to play a more important role in the country’s politics.
At the time of the defeat, King Mohammed V, from the northeastern state of Kelantan, was on the throne and contributed to the smooth transfer of power.
When the then-49-year-old chose to step down, his successor, King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of the central state of Pahang, used his royal discretion to decide whether to resign the country in 2020 and 2021 and after the elections. appointed the prime minister. In 2022, no political party could win a majority in parliament.
He also agreed with then-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s request to declare a state of emergency in January 2021, suspending parliament as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. did.
Malaysia has been in a period of relative peace since Sultan Ibrahim took office, with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim heading a so-called “unity” government that includes former UMNO rivals and representatives from Borneo. Sabah and Sarawak.
Still, some politicians continue to vie for power within the deep rifts of Malaysian society, while Daim Zainuddin, once the powerful right-hand man of Malaysia’s longest-serving Prime Minister Mahathir Mahathir, has fallen into the trap of a corruption crackdown. I’m falling into this.
There are also nerves about disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak, almost a year and a half after being sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption related to the multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
There is growing speculation that Najib, who has applied for a full pardon, could be released despite multiple ongoing trials related to the scandal.
Najib’s release would be a political challenge in the country, as he remains popular among some ethnic Malays, who make up more than half of the population and are increasingly voting for conservative religious and nationalist parties. Some say it will help address some of the divisions.
But analysts say such a move risks alienating those calling for reform and damaging Malaysia’s international reputation.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Federal Territories) Zaliha Mustafa said the amnesty committee met at the palace on Monday, marking the last official event for the outgoing king. She did not elaborate on what was discussed.
“Please wait for the official statement from the amnesty committee,” she said, according to the Malaysian newspaper Star.
“I’m not embarrassed.”
Malaysia’s royal family remains a powerful symbol of identity for Malays, and the king is the country’s official head of Islam. Malays in Malaysia have always been Muslims.
King Ibrahim has previously opposed the “Arabization” of Malay culture, stressing the need for moderation in a country with large Chinese and Indian populations, most of whom are not Muslim.
Independent analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani said that once the new king moves into the palace, he will “not hesitate” to voice his opinion if Anwar is dissatisfied.
The two men appear to have a close working relationship and share similar concerns, particularly about the need to fight corruption and stimulate the economy and investment.
Selina Abdul Rahman, who studies Malaysia at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said that while Anwar sought to foster ties and foster closer ties with Johor state, He pointed out how the Sultan said he had sent a message to reporters asking for advice. And Singapore.
“This is a big difference,” she told Al Jazeera. “Successive prime ministers wanted everything to go through KL (Kuala Lumpur). This clearly shows that the King and Anwar have good relations and that it allows the two countries to work together to improve the situation in the country. It is meant to be useful.”
Singapore and Malaysia this month reached a preliminary agreement to establish the Singapore-Johor Special Economic Zone and improve cross-border connectivity at one of the world’s busiest borders.
Sultan Ibrahim also expressed support for a high-speed rail link between Malaysia and Singapore, which had previously been put on the back burner due to high costs.
Asrul Hadi said of the Johor state government’s leadership, “Unlike other state rulers who were mostly ceremonial, the Sultan always took a pragmatic approach to national issues and was a leader of the state. We have built a cooperative relationship.” “He expects a similar relationship with the federal government, but there will likely be pushback from the administration, especially on policy issues.”
King Ibrahim has already caused controversy with an interview with Singapore’s Straits Times published in December.
Under the headline, “We don’t need a ‘puppet king’,” the king will tackle corruption, put “checks and balances” on the government, wipe out political power and control “the machinations of selfish politicians.” said it was necessary to do so. This operation has shaken the country over the past few years.
“He doesn’t want to get caught up in the games that politicians are playing,” said Ong Kian Min, director of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program at Taylor’s University in Kuala Lumpur, and a former parliamentarian and deputy trade minister. he says. Minister. “He wants political stability so he can formulate and implement strong economic policies.”
Sultan Ibrahim, who is married with six children, is one of Malaysia’s richest men with interests in internet services for real estate, including a stake in the troubled Chinese-backed Forest City project. It’s a person.
Known for his yearly road trip around Johor to meet the people of Johor, which takes place over the course of a year in a custom-built Mack truck, he is passionate about fast cars and airplanes. I have.
Meanwhile, his eldest son Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has been praised for the state’s dominance in national football, with Johor Darul Ta’zim FC (JDT) winning the Super League for 10 consecutive years. .
The family is also media-savvy, giving insight into royal life with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The posts include videos of the sultan joking while meeting people around Johor, as well as videos about the recruitment process for Johor’s private military, the Royal Johor Army.
Earlier this week, they held a ceremony where Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, popularly known as TMJ (the Malay acronym for Tunku Mahota Johor), was installed as regent ahead of his father’s departure for Kuala Lumpur. Shared photos and videos.
The post showed the 39-year-old prince, dressed in military uniform, arriving at the palace in a black Rolls Royce and taking the oath.
On Wednesday, all eyes were on Sultan Ibrahim.
After passing through the streets of Johor, where thousands had gathered to bid farewell, the sultan flew to Kuala Lumpur and took the oath of office in a lavish ceremony broadcast live on television.
Mr. Anwar, government members and members of parliament were among the guests.
King Ibrahim said: “With this oath, I solemnly and truly declare that I am loyal and will govern justly for Malaysia in accordance with the laws and the Constitution.”
From a report from Florence Roy