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New Malaysian king to be sworn in this month

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Royal official says new king will be elected on Jan 24

KUALA LUMPUR: A new Malaysian king will be elected and sworn in this month, royal officials said yesterday, after Sultan Muhammad V abdicated in a historic first following his reported marriage to a Russian former beauty queen.

The 49-year-old stepped aside on Sunday following intense speculation about his future after reports surfaced in recent weeks that he had taken medical leave and then married the former Miss Moscow.

As Malaysia reacted with shock to the news, its Islamic royal families met at the national palace to push ahead with the task of picking a king to take over.

Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, Mr Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, said after the meeting that a new king and his deputy would be elected on Jan 24 and installed on Jan 31.

Swearing in ceremonies for Malaysian kings are lavish affairs, marked by honour guards and Islamic prayers and attended by hundreds of guests in traditional finery.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with a unique arrangement where the throne changes hands every five years among rulers of the nine states.

The royal households take turns to provide the country's king, and it is usually known before the formal election who will become the monarch.

While their role is ceremonial, Malaysia's royalty command great respect and criticising them is strictly forbidden.

But the succession may not be as straightforward this time as the next in line to the throne, Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang state, is elderly and reported to be ailing. Royal officials said he did not attend yesterday's meeting due to ill health.

After him, the next in line under the rotation system is the sultan of southern Johor state.

Sultan Nazrin Shah of northern Perak state is the acting king, as he is the current deputy and performed the King's duties after he went on medical leave at the start of November.

Despite mounting speculation in recent days that the King might give up the throne, there was still palpable shock at the first abdication of a king since the end of British rule in 1957.

"I am naturally stunned. The (King) is a man of the people," Ms Siti Nur Fahimah Razali, 25, a trader from the King's home state of Kelantan, told the New Straits Times.

The King was known for his relaxed persona and love of off-road driving and other extreme sports.

But there had been growing unease at his reign after reports emerged in foreign media in late November - several weeks after the King went on leave - that he had married a Russian, Ms Oksana Voevodina, in a lavish ceremony in Moscow.

Royal officials in Malaysia have not so far commented on the reported wedding, or said what condition prompted him to take medical leave. But such a marriage is unlikely to sit well with the conservative royal households.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had a tense relationship with the royals during his first stint as premier from 1981 to 2003 as he sought to curb their powers, said the government accepted the abdication, official news agency Bernama reported. He hoped that a new king would be elected soon while insisting the government would not "interfere in this matter", it said. - AFP

Who is Russian ex-beauty queen rumoured to be King’s wife?

KUALA LUMPUR: Tongues started wagging as soon as pictures started appearing on the Internet of the Malaysian King with a Russian beauty in what looked like wedding pictures.

Sultan Muhammad V abdicated on Sunday after two years on the throne, marking a historic first for the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1957.

The woman rumoured to have captured the Malaysian King's heart is 25-year-old former Miss Moscow 2015 Oksana Voevodina.

Photos of her and the King and details of her personal life were splashed on the pages of British tabloid Daily Mail.

Ms Voevodina, who is from the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don is believed to be a business graduate from the elite Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.

She had wanted to be a fashion designer but ended up working as a model in China and Thailand.

British newspaper The Sun reported that Ms Voevodina was among 11 contestants on a Russian reality television show inspired by MTV's Temptation Island.

According to the Daily Mail, who spoke to a beauty contest director, Ms Voevodina is said to have met the King 18 months ago in Europe when she was modelling luxury watches.

Malaysian newspaper The Star reported that the ceremony supposedly took place at a concert hall in the Moscow suburb of Barvikha on Nov 22.

Guests at the wedding ostensibly tucked into halal food, and the event was alcohol-free, reported Russian news outlet Islam News.

Ms Voevodina, who had reportedly converted to Islam in April last year, also donned a headscarf.

She has apparently since taken on the name Rihana Oxana Gorbatenko.

Days before their wedding, the couple had purportedly visited a fertility clinic in Germany, reported Russia's English-language television channel RT, which spoke to insiders.

Ms Voevodina's press secretary Maria Shakhova confirmed the Germany trip with RT, adding that it was for "treatment".

The report also said that Sultan Muhammad was anxious to start a family after he did not have children in his first marriage.