The 97-year-old statesman of Malaysian politics lost his parliamentary seat in general elections on Saturday.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has lost his parliamentary seat in Saturday’s general election.

Mahathir came fourth in a five-way fight in his long-held constituency on the resort island of Langkawi, the country’s election commission said Saturday.

“It is a big surprise that he is not alone [Mahathir] lost, but he lost spectacularly,” said Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from outside Kuala Lumpur.

“He not only lost his seat, but also his deposit because he failed to get more than one-eighth of the votes cast. His party also failed to win a single seat.”

It was the 97-year-old’s first electoral defeat in more than half a century. He served as Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years from 1981 to 2003.

Two years ago he returned to politics in the aftermath of the billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB. Mahathir held the Guinness World Record for being “the world’s oldest current prime minister” when he became prime minister in 2018, just two months shy of his 93rd birthday.

Former Prime Minister of Malaysia and Chairman of Gerakan Tanah Air Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir contested the election under his own Homeland Fighters’ Party. [Malaysian Department of Information/Hafiz Itam/Handout via Reuters]

‘Crooks or Jailbirds’

Visibly slowed by his age, but he still looked healthy, this time walking around under his own Homeland Fighters’ Party and having laughed at suggestions to retire, telling pre-election reporters that he had a “good chance had to win.

‘I’m still talking to you, I think, to give reasonable answers,’ said Mahathir.

He added that his party would not form alliances with parties led by “crooks or prison birds” – a clear reference to the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party of imprisoned former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ruling Barisan Nasional coalition — which is dominated by his UMNO party — lost ground to rival alliances led by former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

The corruption-ridden Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain until 2018, could still come to power depending on post-election alliances.

Mahathir has been criticized for ruling the Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003, but he has also been lauded for helping transform the country from a sleepy backwater into one of the world’s largest exporters of high-tech goods.

His long leadership brought political stability and he was credited with the title of “Father of Modern Malaysia” when he oversaw the construction of highways and industrial estates in the 1980s and 1990s.

The reformist Pakatan Harapan alliance led by Mahathir won a stunning victory over UMNO and Najib, who was later convicted of corruption and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Mahathir became prime minister again, but his government collapsed in less than two years due to power struggles.

He has warned that Najib would be released if the imprisoned politician’s allies win in UMNO.

He also offered to become prime minister for a third time, but observers said he had no chance from the start.

His massive confrontations with opposition leader Anwar, his former heir to the throne with whom he had a bitter feud, have dominated and shaped Malaysian politics for the past two decades.

Age was ultimately his greatest opponent.

“Mahathir’s time is over,” Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham, Malaysia, told AFP earlier this month ahead of the election.

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