Thursday, April 26, 2007

What will our new Malaysian King do?

I woke up this morning, only to be assaulted by, an onslaught of news on the installation of our new Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. I can understand the reason for it appearing in TheStar, but why does it also appear on the BBC and Reuters?

From these articles, I have come to learn that we have a unique monarchy system in this world. I had never thought much about it before this as I grew up with it. We are certainly not the only country in the world with a constitutional monarchy. However, we are the only country where the reigning monarch is elected every 5-years on a rotation basis.

Now, I understand why the sudden interest. Our country's monarchy system is a curiousity. This electoral system was instituted by the British in order to allow each of the Malay states to rule as the Sultans were worried about dilution of their powers if they were to agree to join the Federation. So, the 9 royal Malay states take turns to sit on the throne. This may sound weird, but that's the way it is (and it actually works).

The BBC article goes to say that the current King has made some sweeping changes to how things are run in court. TheStar goes into a lot of actual details. For example, the King has decreed that all royal functions must end by 10.30pm as he isn't the partying type. Also, he will be taking his weekly, state of the nation, briefings from the Prime Minister in his new palace at PutraJaya. I've never seen this new palace before. Maybe I should go take a look when I go home and compare it's size to Seri Perdana.

The Reuters article heralds this as the coming of a new generation of Malay kings steeped in Islam. I hadn't realised this either, but she's our first official queen who sports a headscarf. The other queens have all been fairly liberal ladies. It tries to raise the question of whether this will be the start of a more conservative style of government in Malaysia. The article further laments the end of an era of dramatic kings, which sparked a constitutional crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I remember hearing about the crazy stories when I was growing up in Johor.

Anyway, I learned something new today about our country. It's a country with a very unique constitution and system of government. Our King is the only elected king in the world with a 5-year term of office. In other words, the Prime Minister is more powerful, as Kings come and go while he has an indefinite term of service. But our situation isn't quite as bad as our neighbour's, where the ex-Prime Minister is King.

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