Dr Mahathir, who led the Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) coalition in Malaysia’s 15th General Election, failed to defend his Langkawi seat – his first electoral defeat in 53 years.
He lost his deposit after finishing fourth in a five-cornered fight, which was won by Perikatan Nasional’s Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah.
“If you look at the physical landscape in and around KL (Kuala Lumpur), his name is written on it, from the Petronas Twin Towers to the Multimedia Super Corridor and so forth,” said Dr Francis Hutchinson, senior fellow and Malaysia Studies Programme coordinator at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
The Multimedia Super Corridor, announced in 1996, was Dr Mahathir’s plan to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy.
Dr Hutchinson also said the election result was “quite ironic and difficult” for Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, given his association with the state of Kedah and specifically, Langkawi.
“When he was prime minister the first time, actually after the KL federal territory, Kedah got a lot of development expenditure, and he was really the one kind of trying to develop Langkawi as an international destination. That was, I guess, behind the thinking of why he chose that seat,” Dr Hutchinson said.
Dr Serina Abdul Rahman, visiting fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute’s Malaysia Programme and Regional Economic Studies, also highlighted Dr Mahathir’s efforts in shifting the country’s economic focus from agriculture to industrialisation and manufacturing.