Malaysia's king abdicates in historic first

The king’s resignation took effect immediately the National Palace said in a statement

It comes after weeks of speculation about his future after he took a leave of absence and amid rumours he married a Russian former beauty queen.

Malaysia's King Muhammad V abdicated on Sunday, the palace said, after two years on the throne, the first time a monarch has stepped down before completing their five-year tenure.

It is the fist time a ruling monarch has abdicated before the end of a five-year term since Malaysia gained its independence from Britain in 1957.

The 49-year-old, who is noted for his love for cars and extreme sports, took leave at the start of November for two months.

"His majesty tells the people of Malaysia to continue to be united to maintain unity, tolerance, and work together", said the statement, signed by the Comptroller of the Royal Household, Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz.

Reports then circulated online that he had married a former Miss Moscow in Russian Federation - although royal officials in Malaysia have so far not commented on the rumours.

The palace did not respond to requests for comment on the photos or reports of a marriage.

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The palace made no mention of the reason for his resignation, saying Muhammad V has prepared to return to his home state of where he remains as sultan.

Sultan Muhammad V, ruler of northeast Kelantan state, was installed in December 2016 as one of the country's youngest constitutional monarchs.

He was elected as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the 243rd Meeting (Special) of the Conference of Rulers in October 2016, who also voted for the Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah to be the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

In June, the government and palace faced a near two-week impasse over a plan to appoint a non-Malay as attorney-general.

Portraits of the king and queen adorn government buildings throughout the country.

There has been no news so far on which ruler will be appointed as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's successor.

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