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Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (Reuters)
Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (Reuters)

Mahathir Mohamad: Malaysia’s gladfly bows out

  • As a leader, Mohamad has always been too outspoken for his country’s own good
  • Among world leaders, he was one of the few who publicly endorsed Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir

Mahathir Mohamad, 94, has resigned as prime minister of Malaysia. He submitted a letter to the country’s monarch on Monday. His exit is widely seen as the fallout of a political rivalry with his protégé Anwar Ibrahim, 72, with whom Mohamad had a falling out many years ago but has been forced to share power. In 2018, the two leaders formed an alliance on the understanding that the Ibrahim would succeed Mohamad. This pact has apparently come apart. On Sunday, Ibrahim had accused the prime minister of plotting to form a coalition without his party’s support. Suspicions over Ibrahim’s intentions had been brewing in the Mohamad camp as well.

Indian diplomats must be relieved, perhaps even given to some gloating over Mohamad’s resignation. Among world leaders, he was one of the few who publicly endorsed Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir, resulting in a recent trade spat between New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur. In response to his interference in India’s internal matters, as the Indian government saw it, New Delhi nudged Indian importers of Malaysian palm oil to find alternative sources. This hit Malaysia’s exports badly enough to pose its government a headache.

As a leader, Mohamad has always been too outspoken for his country’s own good. After the Asian crisis of 1997, he charged the world’s top currency trader George Soros with plotting to wreak havoc across emerging economies in the region by betting against their currencies. The accusation gained traction because memories of the British pound’s crash out of a European mechanism to align currency values, in which Soros’s trade positions had a role, were fresh at the time. But Mohamad saw a dark conspiracy against Asians. He forgot that when heads of state throw allegations around, they should have evidence to back their claims.




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