SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: The previous king, Sultan Muhammad V, stepped aside this month following just two years on the throne after reports surfaced he had married the former Miss Moscow while on medical leave.

There was great shock across Malaysia at the first abdication of a monarch in the Muslim-majority country’s history.

His likely replacement is Sultan Abdullah of Pahang state, a keen athlete who holds a string of positions on sporting bodies, including on the council of world football governing body FIFA.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with a unique arrangement where the national throne changes hands every five years between rulers of the country’s nine states headed by Islamic royalty.

Eight of the state sultans arrived at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur for the Conference of Rulers, a special meeting during which they will pick a new king for a five-year term, official news agency Bernama reported.

The meeting got under way at 11:15 am (0315 GMT), Bernama said. The only one absent was Muhammad V, who remains the sultan of the northeastern state of Kelantan, despite having abdicated as the national monarch.

Under the rotation system, the central state of Pahang is next in line to provide the monarch.

Sultan Abdullah, 59, was named the state’s new ruler — replacing his elderly, ailing father — several days after Muhammad V’s abdication, in a step viewed as paving the way for him to become the next national monarch.