English Hindi


Politics & War

Politics & War

Mahathir Mohammad

Mahathir Mohammad




  • Mahathir was born at his parents’ home in a poor neighbourhood at Lorong Kilang Ais, Alor Setar, the capital of the Malay sultanate of Kedah, which was then a British protectorate on 10 July 1925.
  • His mother, Wan Tempawan, was a Malay of Kedah. His father, Mohamad Iskandar, was a Penang Malay of partly Indian ancestry.
  • Mahathir was a hard-working school student. Discipline imposed by his father motivated him to study, and he showed little interest in sports.


  • With schools closed during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in World War II, he went into small business, first selling coffee and later pisang goreng (banana fritters) and other snacks.
  • After the war, he graduated from secondary school with high marks and enrolled to study medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore.
  • After graduating with an MBBS medical degree, Mahathir worked as a physician in government service before marrying Siti Hasmah in 1956.
  • He and Siti Hasmah had their first child, Marina, in 1957, before conceiving three others and adopting three more over the following 28 years.


  • Mahathir had been politically active since the end of the Japanese occupation of Malaya, when he joined protests against the granting of citizenship to nonMalays under the short-lived Malayan Union.
  • Mahathir became active in UMNO; by the time of the first general election for the independent state of Malaya in 1959, he was the chairman of the party in Kedah.
  • Despite his prominence in UMNO, Mahathir was not a candidate in the 1959 election, ruling himself out following a disagreement with then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.


  • The delay did not last for long. In the following general election in 1964, he was elected as the federal parliamentarian for the Alor Setar-based seat of Kota Setar Selatan.
  • Elected to parliament in a volatile political period, Mahathir, as a government backbencher, launched himself into the main conflict of the day: the future of Singapore, with its large and economically powerful ethnic Chinese population, as a state of Malaysia.
  • Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in Mahathir’s first full year in parliament.he lost his seat in the 1969 election.


  • By the end of the year, Mahathir had been fired from UMNO’s Supreme Council and expelled from the party; Abdul Rahman had to be persuaded not to have him arrested.
  • Abdul Rahman resigned in 1970 and was replaced by Abdul Razak Hussein. Razak encouraged Mahathir back into the party, and had him appointed as a Senator in 1973.
  • He rose quickly in the Razak government, returning to UMNO’s Supreme Council in 1973, and being appointed to Cabinet in 1974 as the Minister for Education.
  • He also returned to the House of Representatives, winning the Kedah-based seat of Kubang Pasu unopposed in the 1974 election.


  • Mahathir was sworn in as prime minister on 16 July 1981, at the age of 56. One of his first acts was to release 21 detainees held under the Internal Security Act.
  • On the economic front, Mahathir inherited the New Economic Policy through targets and affirmative action in areas such as corporate ownership and university admission.
  • Mahathir also actively pursued privatisation of government enterprises from the early 1980s.
  • In the election, held on 24 April 1987, Mahathir was re-elected a by a narrow margin, receiving the votes of 761 party delegates to Razaleigh’s 718.In an unexpected decision in February 1988, the High Courts ruled that UMNO was an illegal organisation as some of its branches had not been lawfully registered.


  • Each faction raced to register a new party under the UMNO name. Mahathir’s side successfully registered the name “UMNO Baru” (“new UMNO”).
  • At the same time as the political and judicial crises, Mahathir initiated a crackdown on opposition dissidents with the use of the Internal Security Act.
  • Mahathir later declared that it was only used to lock up people accused of riots, unlawful assembly, terrorism and those who have murdered police officers.
  • Mahathir argued that the detentions were necessary to prevent a repeat of the 1969 race riots.


  • The expiry of the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1990 gave Mahathir the opportunity to outline his economic vision for Malaysia.
  • In 1991, he announced Vision 2020, under which Malaysia would aim to become a fully developed country within 30 years.
  • By 1995, less than nine per cent of Malaysians lived in poverty and income inequality had narrowed. Mahathir’s government cut corporate taxes and liberalised financial regulations to attract foreign investment. The economy grew by over nine per cent per annum until 1997 prompting other developing countries.


  • The government rode the economic wave and won the 1995 election with an increased majority. Mahathir initiated a series of major infrastructure projects in the 1990s.
  • With the status and powers of the Malaysian royalty diminished, Wain writes that by the mid-1990s Mahathir had become the country’s “uncrowned king”.
  • By the mid-1990s it had become clear that the most serious threat to Mahathir’s power was the leadership ambition of his deputy, Anwar.


  • By the mid-1990s it had become clear that the most serious threat to Mahathir’s power was the leadership ambition of his deputy, Anwar.
  • Anwar began to distance himself from Mahathir, overtly promoting his superior religious credentials and appearing to suggest he favoured loosening the restrictions on civil liberties that had become a hallmark of Mahathir’s premiership.
  • On 2 September 1997, he was dismissed as deputy prime minister and finance minister, and promptly expelled from UMNO.No immediate reasons were given for the dismissal.On 20 September, he was arrested and placed in detention under the Internal Security Act.


  • Anwar stood trial on four charges of corruption. He was found guilty in April 1999 and sentenced to six years in prison.In another trial shortly after, Anwar was sentenced to another nine years in prison on a conviction for sodomy.
  • At UMNO’s general assembly in 2002, he announced that he would resign as prime minister, only for supporters to rush to the stage and convince him tearfully to remain.
  • He subsequently fixed his retirement for October 2003.Having spent over 22 years in office, Mahathir was the world’s longest-serving elected leader.


  • He pledged to leave politics “completely”, rejecting an emeritus role in Abdullah’s cabinet.Mahathir was the CEO and Chairman, and hence a senior adviser, to many flagship Malaysian companies.
  • After the 2008 election, in which UMNO lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament, Mahathir resigned from the party. Abdullah was replaced by his deputy, Najib Razak, in 2009, a move that prompted Mahathir to rejoin the party.
  • Mahathir repeatedly called for Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign.2016, Mahathir ignited several protests.


  • Mahathir left UMNO in 2016, forming the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM). The new party was officially registered on 9 September 2016, and Mahathir became its chairman.
  • By 2017, he had officially joined the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan. He was proposed as a possible chairman and prime ministerial candidate of Pakatan Harapan.He assumed the position of chairman on 14 July 2017.
  • On 8 January 2018, Mahathir was announced as the Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance’s prime ministerial candidate for the election to be held on 9 May 2018, seeking to oust his former ally Najib.


  • According to the election results disclosed on 10 May 2018, Pakatan Harapan had claimed victory, thus successfully propelling him to the prime ministerial seat once again.
  • On 24 February 2020, Mahathir announced his resignation as Prime Minister and submitted his resignation letter to the king. The king accepted Mahathir’s resignation but reappointed him as interim prime minister until a new one is appointed.