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Mahathir Mohamad: The Man Who Dominated Malaysian Politics

Mahathir had previously served as the country’s prime minister from 1981 to 2003. At the age of 94, Mahathir Mohamad is a name that has dominated Malaysian politics for decades.
Credit: Getty Images

He was voted in as the country’s prime minister in 2018, but in February 2020, found himself ousted in a twist of events that saw the collapse of the governing coalition.

Mahathir had previously served as the country’s prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

But in 2018, he came out of retirement in a bid to take down former prime minister Najib Razak – who has been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions in state funds.

Mr Mahathir, together with former coalition leader Anwar Ibrahim, successfully took down Mr Najib.

But the alliance showed that it could not withstand the weight of internal rivalries. Mr Mahathir’s resignation triggered the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, paving the way for a new prime minister.

As quickly as it begun, Mr Mahathir was removed from the post, replaced by a former party member of his – Muhyiddin Yassin. Mr Mahathir has described the appointment of Mr Muhyiddin as illegal and a betrayal.

But the saga is still far from over – and it’s clear Mr Mahathir will not go down without a fight.

Humble beginnings

Mr Mahathir joined political party United Malays National Organisation at the age of 21 and ran a medical practice for seven years in his home state of Kedah before becoming a member of parliament in 1964.

In 1969 he lost his seat and was expelled from the party after writing an open letter attacking the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

He later wrote a controversial book entitled The Malay Dilemma. In it, he argued that the country’s Malay population had been marginalised, but also castigated them for apathetically accepting a second-class status.

It struck a chord with younger UMNO leaders and he was invited back into the party, re-elected to parliament in 1974, and appointed minister of education. Within four years he had become UMNO’s deputy leader and, in 1981, he became prime minister.

Under his rule, Malaysia transformed into one of the Asian economic tigers of the 1990s – prestige projects such as the Petronas Twin Towers demonstrated the extent of his ambitions.

His authoritarian but pragmatic policies won him popular support at home, though this was tempered by his scant regard for human rights.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44028023

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