The 97-year-old former statesman in Malaysian politics lost his seat in parliament – the first electoral defeat in 53 years.
Old Malaysian Mahathir Mohammed, Prime Minister lost his parliamentary seat on Saturday General electionsprobably ending the career of one of Asia’s most enduring politicians.
Mahathir came fourth in a five-way contest in his longtime constituency on the resort island of Langkawi, the country’s electoral commission announced on Saturday.
“It’s a big surprise that he not only has [Mahathir] lost, but he lost dramatically,” said Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from outside Kuala Lumpur.
“He not only lost his seat but also his deposit because he couldn’t get more than one-eighth of the votes cast. His party also failed to win a single seat.
It was the 97-year-old’s first electoral defeat in more than half a century. He was Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years from 1981 to 2003.
He returned to politics two years ago following the multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB. Mahathir held the Guinness World Record for being the “world’s oldest current prime minister” when he became prime minister in 2018, just two months shy of his 93rd birthday.
“crooks or convicts”
Visibly slowed down by age but still in good health, Mahathir ran this time under his own Homeland Fighters Party and had laughed off suggestions that he should retire, telling reporters ahead of the election that he had a “good chance” of winning.
“I’m still here and talking to you, I think, making reasonable responses,” Mahathir said.
He added that his party would not form any alliances with parties led by “crooks or convicts” – an apparent reference to the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party of jailed former prime minister Najib Razak.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ruling Barisan Nasional coalition – which is dominated by his UMNO party – lost ground to rival alliances led by former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The corrupt Barisan Nasional coalition, which ruled Malaysia from independence from Britain until 2018, could still return to power depending on post-election alliances.
Mahathir has been criticized for ruling the Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003, but he is also hailed for helping to transform the country from a sleepy backwater into one of the leading global exporters of high-tech products.
His long leadership ensured political stability, and he earned the title “Father of Modern Malaysia” by overseeing the construction of highways and industrial parks in the 1980s and 1990s.
The reformist Pakatan Harapan alliance led by Mahathir won a resounding victory over UMNO and Najib, who was later convicted of corruption and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.
Mahathir became prime minister again, but his government collapsed within two years due to infighting.
He warned that Najib would be freed if the imprisoned politician’s allies in UMNO won.
He also offered to become prime minister for a third time, but observers said he had no chance from the start.
His titanic clashes with opposition leader Anwar, his former heir apparent with whom he had a bitter row, have dominated and shaped Malaysian politics for the past two decades.
In the end, age was his biggest adversary.
“Mahathir’s time is over,” Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham in Malaysia told AFP earlier this month ahead of the election.