Who is newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad?
At 92, Mahathir Mohamad will become the world’s oldest elected leader.
His opposition has just won a majority in the Malaysian Parliament with 112 seats to the ruling party’s 76 seats — the first change of government since independence from the British in 1957.
He emerged from political retirement in 2016 and joined the opposition party after being angered by a corruption scandal circling Prime Minister Nijab Razak. Dr Mahathir’s no stranger to the Malaysian parliament but it’s been 15 years since he was in the top job.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the key moments in his political past.
Dr Mahathir was one of the first members of the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) which was formed to seek independence from Britain.
He stood for parliament in 1964, lost his seat five years later, and was expelled from the UMNO after criticising Malaysia’s first prime minister, Abdul Rahman, following Malay-Chinese race riots.
He re-joined the party in the early 1970s and became the leader in 1981.
Dr Mahathir ruled Malaysia for 22 years until 2003, which made him the country’s longest-serving prime minister.
He was credited with modernising Malaysia during his time as leader and the economy boomed during the 1990s.
Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers development was inspired by his vision to be a global player.
Dr Mahathir was also known for his heavy-handed approach, which saw opponents imprisoned and courts subjugated.
Most famously, he fell out with his deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and sacked him in 1998.
When Mr Anwar then led mass political reform protests he was arrested under Malaysia’s controversial Internal Security Act and jailed for sodomy and corruption — charges he’s always denied and said were politically motivated.
In late 2016, the pair buried the hatchet, reunited in a court room, and started a push to oust Prime Minister Nijab Razak.
A global leader in controversy?
There’s a chequered history here too, especially with Australia.
In his first year as prime minister in 1981, Dr Mahathir declined to attend the Commonwealth summit Australia hosted in Melbourne and that set the tone for his attitude that Australia didn’t belong in Asia.
He refused to take part in the inaugural Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 1993 and pushed for the exclusion of Australia, prompting then prime minister Paul Keating to famously label him a “recalcitrant”.
The frosty relations continued throughout the Howard era, with Dr Mahathir declaring Mr Howard did not belong at the first East Asia summit because Australia’s views would only reflect America’s stand.
During Dr Mahathir’s final year as prime minister in 2003, he made a speech to an Islamic summit in which he talked about Jewish domination of the world.
The speech prompted a storm of protests from Australia, the United States, Western Europe and Israel.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team
Support our Independent Journalism