KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's unique constitutional monarchy means the sovereign is neither absolute nor hereditary, but is elected among the heads of the nine royal houses who rule their own states.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong - or Supreme Ruler - is elected for a five-year term by the Conference of Rulers according to guidelines set out in the Federal Constitution and the regulations of the conference.
However, in practice, each of the nine houses was given a term according to its seniority - that is, length of reign in its state - and subsequently, a rotational system that continued the same order has been the accepted convention.
Kelantan's Sultan Muhammad V's abdication is unprecedented, which means that aside from the passing of previous Agongs, this is the first time the Conference must hold an unscheduled election within four weeks.
While Deputy Agong Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak is likely to be acting King in the interim, he is not next-in-line according to the succession order.
Next is Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, but he has been ailing and his son has acted as Regent for two years. Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail follows him in the queue.
However, whatever the rulers may or may not have decided unofficially, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal has to first ensure all nine consent to be nominated as Agong.
Candidacy is subject to certain criteria, such as whether he is a minor, or if the Conference resolves by secret ballot with a majority of at least five that he is unsuitable due to reasons such as infirmity of mind or body.
Although the Conference includes the non-royal governors of Malaysia's other four states, they are not allowed to vote nor be present during the election.
In the Election Meeting, only the nine, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, and the Assistant Secretary to the Conference of Rulers are involved. However, if a ruler is unable to attend, he may appoint another member of the Conference as a proxy to cast his vote.
The nomination list follows the order of succession, beginning with the next-in-line, unless this monarch has already declined the position.
The nine are given a ballot paper with the name of the first in the order to indicate whether he believes this candidate is suitable to be Agong.
If the candidate obtains a majority of at least five, he will be offered the position. If not, or if he declines, the process is repeated with the next name on the list.
The ballot is secret, and all are cast with unmarked paper and the same pen and ink. The ballots are destroyed once the results are known.
After the process is completed, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal will inform the Prime Minister and Parliament who is to be the new head of the federation. The Prime Minister will then inform Malaysians, usually with a press release, who has been elected their King.
The Agong will begin carrying out his royal functions after signing the oaths of office in a ceremony before the Conference of Rulers, and in the presence of the Chief Justice of Malaysia.