Malaysia GE15: Mahathir loses fight for Langkawi seat

20 November, 2022
Malaysia GE15: Mahathir loses fight for Langkawi seat
Former Malaysia prime minister and Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) coalition candidate Mahathir Mohamad has failed to defend his Langkawi seat, official election results announced on Sunday (Nov 20) showed.

The 97-year-old was defeated by Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah, who clinched 13,518 out of 25,463 votes.

Election Commission data showed that Dr Mahathir secured 4,566 votes and has lost his deposit. He finished fourth in a five-cornered fight.

This is Dr Mahathir’s first electoral defeat in 53 years. 

In the last general election, Dr Mahathir won the Langkawi seat on the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) ticket by defeating Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Datuk Nawawi Ahmad and Zubir Ahmad of PAS with an 8,893-vote majority.

Launched in August, the GTA coalition comprises four political parties - the National Indian Muslim Alliance Party (Iman), Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra), Parti Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) and Pejuang, the party led by Dr Mahathir. It also includes NGOs, academicians and individuals.

Dr Mahathir held the world record for the oldest prime minister. He is also Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister, having held the post for 22 years until 2003. He returned as premier after leading Pakatan Harapan (PH) to a historic win in 2018, defeating UMNO which he once led. The PH government collapsed in 2020 due to infighting. During his political career, he was also acting education minister in 2020 and had two stints as Malaysia's finance minister.

Last month, he reportedly said that he was open to becoming prime minister for the third time if there were strong calls for him to do so.

Political analyst James Chin said that although Dr Mahathir "was widely respected for what he did in his first term as prime minister ... a lot of people are in agreement that he made a huge mistake in coming back the second term".

He said: "Because of the nature of his loss, including losing his deposit, I think the history or his legacy will be very different now compared to if he had not come back as the prime minister a second time round."

"Losing a deposit in Malaysia is the ultimate sign that you've been rejected by the people," Prof Chin added.

"Maybe part of it was the voters thinking he really should just rest and perhaps it was a sympathy vote for him to retire," said political observer Serina Abdul Rahman from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute of Dr Mahathir's loss in Langkawi.

"Perhaps this is an indication that the Mahathir legacy, the Mahathir name, is really about to go into full retirement and we are really moving on to a whole new era in Malaysian politics," she added.

Francis Hutchinson, also from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, said that the loss signified the end of an era.

He added: "I think it’s quite ironic and difficult in the sense that he's very closely associated with Kedah and specifically with Langkawi. So when he was prime minister ... 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 why he chose that seat. Given that he came last and (that it is) such a small percentage of the vote, (it) really must be quite difficult."

Dr Mahathir is among the big names to suffer defeats in Malaysia’s 15th general election.

Among them are Barisan Nasional and UMNO veterans Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in Gua Musang, UMNO vice-president Mahdzir Khalid in Padang Terap and finance minister Tengku Zafrul in Kuala Selangor.
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