MALAYSIA’S 92-year-old former Prime Minister-turned opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday launched his first Instagram account with a heartwarming photograph as both sides of the country’s political divide look to woo young voters in what is being described as the “mother of all elections”.
The nonagenarian debuted his “chedetofficial” account with a photograph of himself next to his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, in a state of laughter.
“I’m starting my Instagram account today with a photo with Hasmah,” he said in the caption of the photograph.
“My loyal wife of 62 years has always been by my side. As doctors, laughter is indeed the best medicine.”
Dr Mahathir was the fourth prime minister of Malaysia who reigned for 22 years between 1981 to 2003. Since retiring, Dr Mahathir played a supporting role as a statesman who backed the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the lynchpin party of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. However, the leader was also one of the main figures behind the removal of his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2008.
During his tenure, Dr Mahathir brought development to Malaysia but at the expense of civil liberties. Under the Mahathir administration, many opposition politicians and activists were imprisoned without trial under the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA).
When Najib Razak entered office in 2008, Mahathir had backed the serving prime minister for several years until Najib’s government has was tainted by scandals, particularly over a state-run investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The scandal has brought unprecedented shifts in political forces in Malaysia, where the rule of a party that has held power since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957 could be under threat.
After resigning from Umno, Mahathir formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which is now part of the opposition bloc attempting to wrest federal power from Najib’s administration.
Meanwhile, The Star newspaper on Thursday said Malaysia’s parliament will be dissolved on March 28, 29 or 30, making way for general elections that must be held by August.
Without giving any sources for the report, the paper said a new government would be in place before mid-May, suggesting that the election date could be set for the end of April or early May.
Political pundits and party sources have said Najib was confident of an election victory and that polls could be called for as early as April, according to Reuters.
The term of the current government ends on June 24.
Additional reporting by Reuters