Malaysia profile

Head of state: Tuanku Abdul Halim

Tuanku Abdul Halim was appointed the 14th paramount ruler, Malaysia's head of state, in December 2011. Having already held the post from 1970 to 1975, he is the first Malaysian king to be enthroned twice. He is also the oldest to be elected to the post at 83.

The post of paramount ruler is rotated every five years among the sultans of the nine Malay kingdoms.

Prime minister: Najib Abdul Razak

Najib Razak assumed the post of prime minister following the resignation of his predecessor in 2009, and was sworn in for a second term after his coalition won elections in May 2013.

The long-governing National Front coalition won the 2013 national elections with a weakened majority to extend its unbroken, 56-year rule, fending off the strongest opposition it had ever faced.

The opposition alleged the biggest electoral fraud in the country's history.

The son of the country's second prime minister and nephew of the third, Mr Najib is regarded by many Malaysians as political blue blood and seems to have been destined for the premiership from an early age.

A British-trained economist, he first entered parliament at the age of 23 - becoming the youngest MP in Malaysian history - and quickly rose to prominence.

He held numerous cabinet posts - including finance and defence - before becoming prime minister.

He took over the premiership at a turbulent time, and faces the enormous challenge of steering the country through the global financial crisis, which has hit the economy hard.

Mr Najib pledged radical reforms and a more transparent government. He said that one of his priorities would be to close a widening ethnic and religious divide, after Malaysia's ethnic minorities shifted towards the opposition in large numbers in the 2008 polls, fearing their rights were being eroded.

But his rise to power was marked by a government crackdown on the resurgent opposition, with allegations that strong-arm tactics were being used to stifle political dissent.

In July 2011, a demonstration in the capital Kuala Lumpur calling for electoral reform was forcibly broken up by the police.

However, the following month Mr Najib announced that a cross-party parliamentary committee would look into ways of making the voting process more democratic.