|Area of Law||Constitutional Law|
|Article Name||Constitutional considerations of the Malaysian Sovereign|
|Proposed Publication Period||January, 2019|
|Authors||Shaun Paulian, Arsh Kaur and Nicole Lim|
Following the recent unprecedented resignation of the Malaysian King or “Agong”, Sultan Muhammad V of the state of Kelantan1 from the office of Yang di-Pertuan Agong (“Yang di-Pertuan Agong”) on the 6th of January, 2019, Malaysian news has seen a flood of discussion, both online and offline, on constitutional considerations surrounding the Malaysian monarchy. This article is a review of some of those constitutional considerations, with a focus on the appointment process of the Malaysia’s Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Malaysia’s Constitutional Monarchy
Malaysia is a parliamentary democratic country, with a constitutional monarchy. Under the constitutional monarchy, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s position as Head of State is not hereditary but is one based on election by his peers in the Conference of Rulers.
The Conference of Rulers
The Conference of Rulers (Majlis Raja-Raja) is a council comprising of the nine State Rulers of the states of Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Perlis, Terengganu, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Johor, and Perak; and the Governors (Yang di-Pertua Negeri) of the other four states of Penang, Malacca, Sabah, and Sarawak.
Only the nine State Rulers are allowed to participate in the election of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and to stand as candidates themselves, whereas the Governors of the other four states are not allowed to participate in matters related to the election or removal of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or his deputy2.
Election and resignation vide Article 32(3) of the Constitution
Article 32(3) of the Constitution reads:
“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be elected by the Conference of Rulers for a term of five years, but may at any time resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Conference of Rulers or be removed from office by the Conference of Rulers, and shall cease to hold office on ceasing to be a Ruler.”
The Constitution allows for the resignation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong from office at any time, or he may be removed from office by the Conference of Rulers if at least five members of the Conference have voted in favour of it3. Consequently, if vacancies were to arise in the offices of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the election of a new Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall not be later than four (4) weeks from the dates when the office falls vacant4. In our present circumstance, the current Conference of Rulers have fixed a special meeting to be held on the 24th of January, 2019 to elect a new Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The Election Process as prescribed under the Third Schedule of the Constitution and Regulations of the Conference of Rulers
The position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is relayed on a rotational basis, whereby the nine State Rulers take turn to helm the role of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a full term of five years each. The order in which this rotation moves is contained within the election list. Whenever the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong becomes vacant (either due the expiry of the five-years-term, death in office, resignation or removal of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong), the State Ruler at the top of the election list will be given priority and offered the position of Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The State Ruler at the top of the election list will be nominated to ascend to the throne except in three circumstances;
- where he is a minor,
- where he notifies the Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal that he does not desire to be elected; or
- where the Conference of Rulers vote by secret ballot that he is unsuitable by reason of infirmity of mind or body or for any other cause to exercise the functions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong5
Where a Ruler declines to be elected or fails to be elected by virtue of any of the qualifications mentioned above, he will be pushed to the bottom of the election list and the position will instead be offered to the next State Ruler on the list.
The Ruler who accepts the nomination will then have to obtain at least five votes from the other State Rulers (or his proxy), in which the secrecy of the ballots is ensured via unnumbered ballot papers that are marked and then cast into a ballot box. Immediately after the result of the election is announced, the ballot papers are destroyed in the presence of the Rulers.6
Without diving too deep into history, it is worth noting that the order of the election list has been changed once before, with the first and original election list being no longer applicable today. The second, reconstituted election list is still in operation today and has been arranged in the order of the states that the first to the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong belonged to7. The election list as of the date this article comprises as follows:
- Sultan of Pahang
- Sultan of Johor
- Sultan of Perak
- Yamtuan Negri Sembilan
- Sultan of Selangor
- Raja of Perlis
- Sultan of Terengganu
- Sultan of Kedah
- Sultan of Kelantan
Therefore, the next Ruler in line would be Sultan Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah, who was proclaimed as the sixth Sultan of Pahang on 15th January 2019. ‘Daulat Tuanku’ (Long Live the Ruler). His father, Sultan Ahmad Shah Al Musta’in Billah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, who was set to be next in line for the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, stepped down due to his declining health8.
A new deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong will also have to be elected
Following Sultan Muhammad V’s resignation, a new Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong will also have to be elected. Article 33(2) states, inter alia, that a Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be elected for a five-year term or for the remaining term of an Agong. Further, Article 33(3) states that in the event a vacancy occurs in the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s term shall expire on the cessation of the vacancy.
The Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong will assume the duties of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong during any period in which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is unable to exercise the functions of his office owing to illness, absence from the country when making state visits to foreign countries, and in the event of death in office.
The position of Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be offered to the next Ruler on top of the election list and if he does not accept it, it will be offered to the next and so on until a Ruler accepts the office.
-By Shaun Paulian, Arsh Kaur and Nicole Lim
2Section 7 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution
3Part III of the Third Schedule to the Constitution
4Section 6 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution
5Section 1(1) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution
6Official website of the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal
7Official website of the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal