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Malaysia's Royals Select a New King - 2001-12-12

Malaysia has a new king. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced the decision made by Malaysia's royalty Wednesday.

Malaysia's royals have selected Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail to be the country's 12th monarch. The group, made up of Sultans from nine Malaysian states, elected Syed Sirajuddin Wednesday in a secret ballot.

He takes over the monarchy because the previous king, Abdul Aziz Shah, died of heart failure last month.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy. While the king signs bills, he is largely a symbolic leader. Real power rests with the prime minister and Parliament.

The election of the new king follows centuries of tradition once considered all-important to Malaysia's Muslims who make up more than 60 percent of its 23 million people.

The nine sultans rotate through the position of king, who has the throne for five years. No one may be elected more than once.

Still, the new king brings some contemporary skills to the job. Syed Sirajuddin went to the Sandurst Military Academy in Britain before serving in the Malaysian Armed Forces. The 58 year-old left the military in 1969 to concentrate on royal duties.

Syed Sirajuddin takes up his official duties on Thursday. More ceremonies to mark the king's inauguration are expected in the coming weeks.