The monarchy system

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 26 Apr 2007

THE office of the King is not hereditary. Malaysia practices a system of government based on Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy at two levels; Federal and State levels. At the Federal level, the head of State is the King and the head of government is the Prime Minister.  

At the state level, the head (Ruler) of State is either the Sultan, Raja, or Yang di-Pertuan Besar, and the Yang di-Pertua Negeri is the head of State where there are no Rulers: the Chief Ministers (Mentri Besar/Ketua Mentri) are the heads of government. 

Rulers’ conference: Malay rulers attending the 207th Conference of Rulers at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 1 last year. Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (sixth from left) who chaired the meeting, was accompanied by Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo (fourth from right). Present were (from left) then Terengganu’s Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin who is now the King, Deputy Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob, Kelantan Sultan Tuanku Ismail Petra Sultan Yahya Petra, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mahdzir Khalid, Kedah’s Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negri Sembilan Tuanku Ja’afar and Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Hassan, and Perak’s Sultan Azlan Shah. — Bernama

Role of the Conference of Rulers  

The Conference of Rulers was formally instituted in 1948, as a result of the British design to replace the Council of Rulers of the Federated Malay States, which was first convened in Kuala Kangsar in 1897. Four Malay Rulers of the states of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang were members of the Council which was chaired by the British High Commissioner. 

The Conference of Rulers was convened for the first time on Aug 31, 1948, and held until Sept 1. The meeting then was for the first time attended by all the nine Malay Rulers. 


The Conference of Rulers is the supreme institution in the country and unique because it is the only such institution in the world today. When the country achieved independence, the Conference of Rulers was constituted under Article 38 of the Federal Constitution.  

In accordance with the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution it shall exercise its functions of: 

  • AND may deliberate on questions of national policy (for example, changes in the immigration policy) and any other matter that it thinks fit;  

  • WHEN the Conference of Rulers deliberates on matters of national policy, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be accompanied by the Prime Minister, and the other Rulers and Governors (Yang di-Pertua Negeri) by their Mentri Besar or Chief Ministers;  

  • NO LAW directly affecting the privileges, position, honour or dignity of the Rulers shall be passed without the consent of the Conference of Rulers; and  

  • THE Conference of Rulers shall be consulted before any change is made in administrative policy under Article 153 (with regard to the special position and privileges of the Malays and natives and the rights of other communities).  

    The members of the Conference of Rulers may act according to their discretion in any proceedings relating to the following functions: 

    Special souvenir: The Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal Tan Sri Engku Ibrahim EngkuNgah (left) presenting a souvenir to Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin during his workingvisit to the office of the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal at Jalan Bukit Petaling in KualaLumpur on Jan 12.

    Election of the King 

    Malaysia does not have an absolute monarchy although it has a King, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as the Head of State. What is unique about the monarchical system in Malaysia is that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected by the Conference of Rulers in accordance with the procedure spelt out in the Third Schedule of the Federal Constitution and the rules of the Conference of Rulers. 


  • ONLY one of the Rulers is qualified to be elected; 

  • ONLY the Rulers are eligible to vote; and 

  • AS IS the custom, the most senior Ruler is elected. This procedure is no longer adhered to since the Rulers of all States have had their turns to be elected.  

    The first round was completed with the election of the Sultan of Perak as the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Since then new list known as the Reconstituted List was drawn up based on the seniority of the States whose Rulers have been elected as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the First to the Ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong). 

    Not Eligible for Election 

    The Constitution provides that a Ruler is not eligible for election as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong unless: 

  • THE Ruler is a minor; 

  • THE Ruler has notified the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal that he does not wish to be elected, or; 

  • THE Conference of Rulers by a secret ballot resolves that the Ruler is unsuitable by reason of infirmity of mind or body or for any other cause to exercise the functions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The resolution shall only be carried if at least five members of the Conference have voted in favour of it. 

    Steps preceding an election 

    Application of consent for the date of the Election Meeting. 

    If vacancies occur in the offices of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Timbalan Yang di-Pertuan Agong, proceedings for the Election shall not be later than four weeks from the dates when the offices fall vacant. 

    The Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal shall write to every Ruler enquiring whether he desires to be nominated to the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Timbalan Yang di-Pertuan Agong respectively. The Rulers who do not wish to be elected shall so notify the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal, and their States will then be placed last on the Nomination List. 

    Oath-taking: Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin taking his oath of office as the XIII King while other Malay Rulers and Heads of State look on during a ceremony at the Balairong Seri in Istana Negara last December. — Bernama

    Election proceedings 

    When the Conference of Rulers deliberates on the election of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Timbalan Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Governors (Yang di-Pertua Negeri) will not be present even though they are members. 

    The election is carried out by a secret ballot. The ballot papers will be destroyed in the presence of the Rulers as soon as the result of the election result is announced. The ballot papers used are not numbered, but marked with the same pen and ink, and are inserted into the ballot box. 

    The most junior Ruler who is not listed as nominee for the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is appointed to count the ballot papers together with the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal. 

    Only the Rulers, the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal and the Assistant Secretary of the Conference of Rulers are involved in the election proceedings. 

    A Ruler may appoint another Ruler as his proxy to vote on his behalf in the event that he is unable to be present at the Election Meeting. 

    Election process 

    During the process of the election, the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal will distribute the ballot papers to the Rulers, and each Ruler will be requested to indicate (on the ballot paper) whether the most senior Ruler (one name only) is suitable/not suitable to be elected as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.  

    The nominee must have obtained the majority of five votes before the Ruler presiding over the Election Meeting offers the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to him. If the successful nominee declines the offer or the Ruler fails to secure the required majority votes, the voting process will be repeated with the nomination of the second most senior Ruler in the Seniority List of Rulers.  

    The process will only be completed after the Ruler has accepted the offer of the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The Conference will then declare the Ruler as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who will hold office for a term of five years.