Wednesday, May 2, 2007

King Sworn In

The 13th King of Malaysia was inaugurated last week. He has this long convoluted foreign name, and I'm not quite sure which parts I can omit. Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud is his full name, but I would assume Malaysian people call him something shorter in casual conversation.

Malaysia has an interesting head of state system, one of the most unique in the world. Basically it works as such:

The Federation of Malaysia is a parliamentary, federal democracy. There is a federal government and 13 state governments. Nine of the states are monarchies, with a sultan as head of state, while the other four are republics, with a governor. These people don't do a lot- they're mostly figureheads. Each state has a prime minister, too; they're the ones who actually run the governments.

When they're not cutting ribbons, the nine sultans are part of something called the "Conference of Rulers." Every five years a different member of the Conference gets to be King of Malaysia for a five-year term. Then someone else gets a turn. It rotates in a steady pattern, but since there are 13 states it can take a long time before you get a chance. For example, Malaysia has been an independent country for almost fifty years, and only now are we in the "second cycle."

King Long-Name is the second-ever king from the state of Terengganu. The last sultan from that state ruled as king from 1965-1970. A whole other sultan lived and died inbetween the two of them.

So anyway, yes, last Thursday the new guy was formally inaugurated in a lavish ceremony. His term of office started in late December, but this was his official coronation signaling his formal beginning as King.

The Star, which is a prominent Malaysian newspaper, has a lot of interesting coverage on the inauguration and all the ceremonial folderol associated with it. this is special feature they ran about the old King, when he was inaugurated back in 2001. It has more pretty pictures.

Speaking of pretty pictures, here's a fine portrait of the new King and Queen standing alongside their Prime Minister. It just screams "orientalism:"


Ron said...

My bet is that they simply refer to him as "Sultan Mahmud"... sounds like an official royal title for a muslim king.

Of course it's just a semi-educated guess

Sesel said...

"ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud" translates as "son of the great/distinguished/honorable Sultan Mahmud", the name of his father.