Mahathir Mohamad was born in 1925 in Alor Setar, Malaysia. He was a doctor before becoming a politician with the UMNO party, and ascended quickly from member of parliament to prime minister. During his 22 years in office, he grew the economy and was an activist for developing nations, but also imposed harsh restrictions on civil liberties. He resigned office in 2003.
Mahathir Mohamad Full Biography and Profile
Mahathir Mohamad was born on December 20, 1925, in Alor Setar, in the state of Kedah in northern Malaysia. His family was modest but stable, and his father was a respected teacher at an English language school.
After finishing Islamic grammar schools and graduating from the local college, Mahathir attended medical school at the University of Malaya in Singapore. He was an army physician before forming a private practice at the age of 32.
Entry Into Politics
Mahathir became active in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s largest political party, and was elected to its policy-making group, the Supreme Council. With the support of the UMNO, he won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1964. He wrote a book, The Malay Dilemma, demanding affirmative action for indigenous Malays and equal status with Chinese-Malaysians, while also criticizing Malays’ “economic backwardsness.” These then-radical ideas earned the ire of Prime Minister Abdul Rahman, and the UMNO banned the book and expelled Mahathir from the party.
Rahman resigned in 1970, and after Mahathir was reinstated in the UMNO in 1972, his political career took off. He was reelected to parliament in 1973, promoted to a Cabinet position in 1974 and rose to deputy prime minister in 1976. He became prime minister just five years later when his predecessor, Hussein Onn, retired.
Mahathir had a significant impact on the economy, culture and government of Malaysia. He won five consecutive elections and served for 22 years, longer than any other prime minister in Malaysia’s history. Under him, Malaysia experienced rapid economic growth. He began privatizing government enterprises, including airlines, utilities and telecommunications, which raised money for the government and improved working conditions for many employees, although many of the beneficiaries were UMNO supporters. One of his most significant infrastructure projects was the North-South Expressway, a highway that runs from the Thai border to Singapore.
From 1988 to 1996, Malaysia saw an 8 percent economic expansion, and Mahathir released an economic plan—The Way Forward, or Vision 2020—asserting that the country would be a fully developed nation by 2020. He helped shift the country’s economic base away from agriculture and natural resources and toward manufacturing and exporting, and the country’s per capita income doubled from 1990 to 1996. Although Malaysia’s growth has slowed and it’s unlikely the country will achieve this goal, the economy remains stable.
But in spite of these accomplishments, Mahathir leaves a mixed legacy. Although he began his first term conservatively, during the 1980s Mahathir became more authoritarian. In 1987 he instituted the Internal Security Act, which permitted him to close four newspapers and order the arrests of 106 activists, religious leaders and political opponents, including Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy prime minister. He also altered the constitution to restrictive the interpretive power of the Supreme Court, and he forced a number of high-ranking members to resign.
Mahathir’s record on civil liberties, as well as his criticisms of Western economic policies and industrialized nations’ policies toward developing countries, made his relationships with the United States, Britain and Australia difficult. He banned The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal for printing negative editorials about him, and supported a national law condemning drug smugglers to death, resulting in the execution of several Western citizens.
Mahathir retired in 2003, and remains an active and visible part of Malaysia’s political landscape. He is an ardent critic of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, whom he chose to succeed him.
UPDATES 9 May 2018: Historic win for Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia election
Malaysia’s outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak says he has accepted the “verdict of the people” but stopped short of conceding defeat in historic elections yesterday which swept his corruption-plagued government from power.
“I accept the verdict of the people and Barisan Nasional are now committed to the principles of parliamentary democratic,” a downcast and tired Mr Najib said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur this morning.
“Because no party has got a simple majority the king will make a decision on who will be appointed as Prime Minister. Barisan Nasional will respect whatever decision made by the king. “
The ambiguous concession speech immediately fuelled speculation that the defeated Barisan Nasional, which has held unbroken government for 61 years, was attempting to lure MPs from other parties into its coalition as it has done in previous elections.
The difference this time however is the scale of at defeat.
The government was swept out of power in an extraordinary election tsunami which united Malaysians across ethnic, religious, age and geographic divides.
In its final announcement at 440am Malaysian time the election commission announced that the four party Pakatan Harapan opposition led by Mahathir Mohamad and his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim had captured a simple majority of 113 seats.
Under the country’s first past the post system a minimum 112 of the 222 parliamentary seats is required to form government.
In contrast the Barisan Nasional won just 79 seats. Even if it were to cobble together an alliance of every other party it would still not have enough seats to get over the line.
Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 92-year-old former strongman, will be sworn in as the country’s new Prime Minister after leading a coalition of former political enemies to an historic and stunning election victory that has toppled from power after 61 years the party he once ruled with an iron fist.
– Mahathir Mohamad Biography and Profile (Biography)