KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Malaysia’s new Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be elected this January 24, slightly over three weeks after Kelantan ruler Sultan Muhammad V’s unprecedented abdication as the country’s King.
But what is the election process like and who gets to vote?
Here are some quick notes based on the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal website:
Who can vote?
All nine Malay rulers will be able to vote for one of them to become the next Agong, with the selection process also based on a rotation basis.
Although they are also members of the Conference of Rulers, the governors of Penang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak are not eligible to vote or even be present at the Election Meeting.
Who can be a nominee?
All rulers are qualified to be nominated to be elected to be the next Agong, except for when the ruler is not yet an adult, or has informed the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal that he does not wish to be elected, or if at least five rulers vote by secret ballot to resolve that such a ruler is unsuitable to be Agong.
The Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal has to seek each ruler’s consent for nominates to be either the Agong or deputy Agong, and those who do not wish to be elected will be shifted to the end of the nomination list.
Who are the most likely candidates in the Jan 24 elections?
Assuming those eligible to be nominated are all qualified and accept their candidacy, the current list of rulers in terms of seniority, based on the order of states whose rulers had previously held the post of Agong: Pahang, Johor, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Perlis, Terengganu and Kedah.
A bit like GE, but not quite
An easy way to understand the process is by looking at the example of the general elections held every five years nationwide to elect new lawmakers, where a list of candidates’ names are printed on each ballot paper that carries a serial number, and with voters’ choices kept confidential via casting into ballot boxes before the ballot papers are counted.
For the election process for the Agong, secrecy of ballots is ensured via unnumbered ballot papers that are marked with the same pen and same ink that is cast into a ballot box.
The ballot paper only contains a single nominee’s name. Each ruler (or another ruler which they appoint as their proxy if they are unable to attend the Election Meeting) will then vote by selecting whether the nominee is "suitable" or "not suitable" for the Agong position.
The ballot papers are then counted before being immediately destroyed in front of the rulers after the results are announced, with the whole voting process to be repeated if the nominee does not have at least five votes in favour.
The repeat of the voting process would then involve a ballot paper with only the name of the next most senior nominee.
If a nominee succeeds in getting at least five votes and accepts the offer to be the next Agong, the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal then informs both lower and upper houses of the Parliament and the prime minister.
The prime minister would then announce the election results, with the newly-elected Agong to sign the oath of office before the Conference of Rulers and the Chief Justice of Malaysia (or the next most senior judge if the Chief Justice is unavailable), and with the Conference of Rulers to also appoint two rulers to sign as witnesses. The same process applies for a newly-elected deputy Agong.
What about the deputy Agong?
Until the country has a new Agong, Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah will remain as deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong and exercise the functions of the Agong as the latter position is now vacant, based on Article 33(1) of the Federal Constitution.
When contacted, constitutional lawyer Lim Wei Jiet confirmed that a new deputy Agong will have to be elected following Sultan Muhammad V’s abdication.
Lim highlighted two constitutional provisions, including Article 33(2) which among other things says that a deputy Agong shall be elected by the Conference of Rulers for a five-year term or for the remaining term of an Agong.
"Most importantly, Article 33(3) states: If during the term for which the Timbalan Yang di-Pertuan Agong was elected a vacancy occurs in the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, his term shall expire on the cessation of the vacancy.
"So yes, the Conference of Rulers must re-elect a Deputy Agong. But it doesn’t mean they can’t re-elect Sultan Nazrin as Deputy Agong again (assuming Pahang or Johor becomes YDPA)," he told Malay Mail, explaining that there are no provisions to bar the re-election of the same deputy Agong.
Lim had earlier today spoke on the constitutional perspective in relation to the office of the Agong.
Below is a simplified flowchart of the election process for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the similar election process for deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong: