Mahathir Becomes PM After Winning Malaysian Polls Marked by Racial Politics

Mahathir Mohamad, 92, who won the general election in Malaysia will become the oldest serving prime minister in the world.


Veteran Malaysian politician Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 92, will be the world’s oldest prime minister after winning the 14th general election in Malaysia on May 9. Mohamad, who has Indian roots, earlier held the post for 22 years, from 1981 to 2003, making him the longest serving prime minister in Malaysia.

Mohamad pulled off a great feat by wrestling power from the coalition, Barisan Nasional Coalition (BNC), which ruled the country for six decades.

“We are not seeking revenge,” Mahathir said, according to Bloomberg. “What we want to do is to restore the rule of law.”

Mohamad was earlier a member of the BNC, and launched his own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia party in 2016 after quitting Umno. Mohamad’s party led the opposition alliance, Pakatan Harapan, to oust the incumbent prime minister, Najib Razak. The opposition alliance won 122 seats, the election commission said. Only 112 seats are needed to form a government in Malaysia.

Razak’s tenure was marked with accusations of cronyism and corruption. He was Mohamad’s protege once and was handpicked in 2009 to head his former party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and BNC. UMNO has led the BNC since the 1970s.

Mohamad went into retirement in 2003 after the end of his tenure as prime minister, but came out of retirement to become Razak’s fiercest critic in 2017. Mohanad’s ethnicity was also questioned by the BNC in August 2017.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had claimed that Mohamad’s identity card said that his name is “a/l Iskandar Kutty” instead of “Mohamad.”

Responding to the criticism, Mohamad had said in a video post on the Facebook page of his party: “This is good enough to show that Zahid is a big liar. A big liar because he cannot show the blue-colored identity card.”

He has, however, acknowledged his South Indian heritage in his autobiography, A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mohamad’s daughter, Marina,  said that Iskandar was the name of her father’s grandfather and that the late Iskandar had married into a prominent Malay family, the Straits Times had earlier reported. She had cleared up the accusations by saying that the name “should be Mahathir bin Mohamad because my grandfather’s name was Mohamad bin Iskandar,” according to Free Malaysia Today.

Mohamad had earlier dismissed fears about his age being a factor in his political ambitions. “I am already old. I am past 90. I don’t have much time but within my means, I will try my very best to work together with all my friends to rebuild our nation,” Mahathir said in a recent video.

“As far as health is concerned, I am not senile yet,” he said in a recent televised debate, according to the Associated Press.

Mohamad also faced criticism last month for referring to the Malaysian-Indian community as “keling,” and issued an apology over the issue. “I would like to apologize to the Indian community because I used the derogatory term. I never meant to insult anyone but when I was a boy, we used that word but it is now considered derogatory. I apologize if I have caused any problems to them,” he said then.

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