Malaysian king quits throne 'after marrying beauty queen'
The King of Malaysia renounced the throne yesterday after weeks of speculation over his ill health and rumours that he had married a former Russian beauty queen in a secretive ceremony.
The abdication of Muhammad V was announced by Malaysia's National Palace, which mysteriously gave no hints as to why the monarch took the historic decision.
It marks the first time in Malaysian history that a monarch has stood down since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957.
The palace statement said the king was grateful for the opportunity given to him by the Council of Rulers and thanked the prime minister and government.
"His highness has worked towards fulfilling his responsibilities entrusted to him as the head of state, serving as a pillar of stability, source of justice, the core of unity... for the people," it read.
The resignation comes barely a week after the king resumed his duties after spending two months away on medical leave.
During that same period, he is also believed to have married a former Russian beauty queen 24 years his junior.
According to Russian media reports, 25-year-old Oksana Voevodina tied the knot with the 49-year-old king at a lavish ceremony at the Barvikha concert hall in Moscow.
Photographs show a beaming Ms Voevodina sitting next to King Muhammad in a white wedding dress, while he is clad in national robes.
She is said to have converted to Islam in April of last year and has told friends: "I think that the man must be the head of the family and of course shall not earn less than a woman."
Curiously, Malaysian palace officials have declined to confirm the marriage and have not acknowledged the photographs, which were widely circulated on social media and several Malaysian websites.
The 'New Straits Times' reported there had been tensions between the palace and the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led the opposition to an election win in May.
Rumours of the king being prone to erratic behaviour have also been swirling around Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia has nine royal households, who typically take turns to sit on the throne. The selection of the next king can be decided by a vote in the Council of Rulers, made up of all nine royal households. The monarch's role is largely ceremonial.
Muhammad V, ruler of north-east Kelantan state, took his oath of office in December 2016, becoming one of Malaysia's youngest constitutional monarchs.