KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s abrupt announcement today, resigning as prime minister, marks the second time the same person has resigned twice from the prime ministership.
Just as he did in 2003, stepping down as the fourth prime minister, today’s announcement was unexpected, almost as unexpected as his return to power in 2018 as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister.
This evening, he was appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as interim prime minister until the formation of a new government.
Mahathir had returned to power in 2018 after leading the Pakatan Harapan charge to remove what he called a kleptocratic government. The general election victory of May 2018 ended six decades of government by the Umno-led Barisan Nasional.
His second stint as PM of the Pakatan Harapan government lasted just 22 months – his first had lasted 22 years.
Mahathir’s last major policy announcement was the National Automotive Policy (NAP) 2020. A known automotive enthusiast, Mahathir had introduced the first national car, Proton, in 1982 with the vision of turning Malaysia into a regional manufacturing powerhouse. He recently launched the third national car project.
Mahathir had also launched the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, a commitment to make Malaysia a nation that achieves sustainable growth, and equitable wealth distribution across income groups, ethnicities, regions and supply chains.
His 22-month-long administration marked several firsts in empowerment of women: the appointment of a woman deputy prime minister, several important posts for women in the Cabinet, and a female Chief Justice for the first time.
During his brief second tenure, Mahathir received multiple international awards including Japan’s highest award, the ‘Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers’ conferred by Emperor Akihito of Japan.
Mahathir also commanded the attention of international audiences at several fora, including condemning Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya community at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.
He was also known to have been outspoken on the hostile treatment of Palestinians by Israel.
During his first tenure as prime minister, succeeding Hussein Onn in 1981, Mahathir had pushed for the country’s modernisation and further development.
Among his achievements during this period were the construction of the Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur City Centre in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, which he launched in 1992, the development of the federal administrative capital of Putrajaya, the North-South Expressway, and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), as well as the Multimedia Super Corridor, Malaysia’s national ICT (information and communications technology) initiative.
Dr Mahathir was also credited with putting Malaysia on the international sporting map when the country played host to Formula One races, as well as the Le Tour de Langkawi cycling tournament.
Kedah-born Mahathir began his working life as a medical officer at Alor Setar General Hospital. In 1957 he opened the MAHA Clinic in Alor Setar, the first private clinic owned by a Malay at the time.