Sultan of Johor elected M'sia's new Agong by Conference of Rulers, will take throne on Jan. 31 2024

Outgoing Agong Abdullah Shah was the only Sultan to preside over four different Malaysian Prime Ministers.

Tan Min-Wei | October 27, 2023, 02:00 PM


On Oct. 27, Malaysia's rulers confirmed the Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Iskandar will be the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Sultan of Perak Nazrin Shah will be his deputy.

Rotating position

The current Agong, Abdullah Shah of Pahang was appointed in 2019 by Malaysia's Conference of Rulers.

He was appointed the Agong in 2019 after the previous Agong, Muhammad V of Kelantan, abdicated less than three years into his term, according to the Malay Mail.

Malaysia's Agong is selected from its nine Malay rulers, each of whom are known as sultans except the Raja of Perlis, and the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan.

The Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan is himself elected by the state's own assembly of noble chiefs.

The states of Penang, Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak, do not have sultans, and do not play a role in the choosing of a new Agong.

Traditionally the Agong holds the position for exactly five years, as Abdullah is doing now, but on occasion an Agong will abdicate before his allotted time.

Abdullah himself had only just ascended the throne of Pahang 20 days before he was appointed Agong; with his father Ahmad Shah of Pahang also abdicating, due to poor health.

Abdullah thanked his fellow rulers for their support during his reign, and said that the Agong's role in Malaysia was not symbolic, but also acted as a protector of democratic practices, "the pillar of our country's peace and the pulse of our national unity", as was reported in the Malay Mail.

Protector of democratic practices

Abdullah, more than almost any other Agong, this was put to the test on this front. He is the only Agong in Malaysian history to have presided over four prime ministers, first Mahathir Mohamad, then Muhyiddin Yassin, then Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and finally Anwar Ibrahim.

At the conclusion of Malaysia's 15th GE in November 2022, while Anwar's Pakatan Harapan coalition had the most seats in parliament, neither it nor the now opposition Perikatan Nasional had enough seats to form a government.

Both coalitions required the cooperation of each other to form a majority, which did not happen.

Alternatives included the East Malaysian parties, or PH's long time opponent, the Barisan Nasional.

It was at the Agong's urging that BN and PH were able to find enough common ground to form a unity government, eventually drawing in the East Malaysian parties as well.

Abdullah has also visited Singapore on several occasions, particularly after the Malaysian Singaporean border reopened after the pandemic.

He appears to be a fan of the F1, having visited during the Singapore Grand Prix in both 2022 and 2023, and reciprocated Singapore's traditional orchid naming ceremony when he was visited in Malaysia by then-President Halimah Yacob.

Brother rulers

Abdullah's replacement was decided by the Conference of Rulers, and on Oct. 27 it was confirmed to be the Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Iskandar, something had been previously expected.

Ibrahim will take up the throne on Jan. 31 2024, with Abdullah formally stepping down the day before.

Ibrahim had previously said to Bernama that he was prepared to undertake the responsibility of the role on "behalf of his brother rulers".

He said at the time that he did not consider becoming Agong as a "promotion", and that his top priority was the welfare of the "rakyat" or people.

At the current 262nd Conference of Rulers, he paid tribute to outgoing Agong, praising him for shouldering the "responsibility as Head of State with integrity, wisdom, and excellence", according to the New Straits Times.

He also noted the challenges faced by Abdullah during his reign, including a pandemic and political turmoil.

The Sultan of Johor has also held traditionally close ties with Singapore, recently visiting the country in order to have dinner with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

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Top image via Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar/Facebook