According to the nation’s electoral commission, Mahathir finished fourth in a five-way race in his long-held electorate on the tourist island of Langkawi.
For more than 50 years, it was his first election loss.
When Mahathir took office for a second time as Prime Minister in 2018, two months short of turning 93, he earned the Guinness World Record of becoming the “world’s oldest current Prime Minister.”
He campaigned this time within his own Homeland Fighters’ Party and had shrugged off suggestions that he should resign, assuring journalists before the election that he had a “strong chance” of winning despite clearly being hampered by age but still appearing well.
“I’m still standing around and talking to you, I think, making reasonable answers,” Mahathir claimed.
He further stated that his party will not join forces with organisations run by “crooks or jailbirds,” a clear allusion to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the organisation of imprisoned former Premier Najib Razak.
Mahathir is praised for his role in transforming Malaysia from a secluded cove into one of the leading exporters of high-tech goods worldwide, despite criticism for his authoritarian rule over the Southeast Asian country from 1981 to 2003.
Mahathir’s lengthy rule brought political stability, and during the 1980s and 1990s, he oversaw the development of motorways and industrial parks, earning the title “Father of Modern Malaysia.”
He stepped out of his 15-year retirement to head the opposition Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition in the 2018 elections as a result of voter resentment over the part that the incumbent Najib played in the enormous financial scandal at state fund 1MDB.
UMNO and Najib, who were later found guilty of corruption and are currently serving a 12-year prison sentence, were defeated by the reformist group in a surprising triumph. Mahathir regained the position of premier, but internal strife caused his administration to fall in less than two years.
If Najib’s UMNO allies win, he has threatened that the imprisoned politician will be set free.
In addition, he offered to run for prime minister a third time, but analysts claimed he was doomed from the start.
His fierce disagreements with his former heir-apparent Anwar Ibrahim have dominated and influenced Malaysian politics for the past twenty years. Anwar Ibrahim is the leader of the opposition.