Malaysia’s king has abdicated, royal officials have said, ending weeks of speculation about his future.

The announcement on Sunday follows a leave of absence by the head of state and rumours he had married a former Russian beauty queen.

Sultan Muhammad V’s decision marks the first time a king has abdicated in the Muslim-majority country since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.

“The National Palace informs that his majesty has resigned as the 15th king effective January 6,” a statement from the palace said on Sunday.

The palace did not give any reason for the 49-year-old royal’s move.

There had been a question mark over the reign of the king, who ascended to the throne in December 2016, since he took a leave of absence for medical treatment in November.

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

Speculation intensified about his future this week when the country’s Islamic royals reportedly held a special meeting.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with an unique arrangement where the throne changes hands every five years between rulers of the nine Malaysian states headed by centuries-old Islamic royalty.

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