At 97, Malaysia’s Mahathir makes last election hurrah
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – On Sunday, a man in his 90s was elected prime minister for the third time in five years in Malaysia’s national elections.
Mahathir Mohamad, the fourth man in that race — the only one in the past 25 years who achieved this feat — was elected Malaysia’s fourth prime minister after more than half a century.
It was his fifth general election as prime minister after four decades of authoritarian rule by the royal family.
A senior adviser to Malaysia’s leader once described him at age 91 as an “old school reformer who would not compromise on his principles”.
The elder statesman of Malaysia was elected in 1995, 1996 and 2001. He won the most votes in 2001 of his five general elections — an unprecedented feat for a country where the mainstay of its political life is the royal family, which appoints an executive prime minister.
In an age of cynicism, Mahathir’s triumph was seen as a triumph of good will over evil. “The old guard has fallen,” said a Reuters headline at the time after Mahathir’s victory.
But as Mahathir’s win was confirmed, opposition challenger Anwar Ibrahim, who was barred in 2007 from running because of his alleged role in the 1984 Bali bombing that killed five tourists, said he would appeal against the Election Commission’s decision to bar him and his coalition from participation in the May 9 elections.
Mahathir — whose term as prime minister ended on Wednesday — remains popular with a large chunk of Malaysians. Many Malaysians are still drawn to the man of modest origin who served as the nation’s first prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and as the country’s founding leader after independence in 1957.
But it is his decision to let go of the royal family, and its role during Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister, that many Malaysians have continued to laud.
In a major shift of his political strategy, Mahathir has refused to hold a ceremonial investiture ceremony to inaugurate the new prime minister. Instead, he announced