At the age of 92 Malaysia’s former strongman leader Mahathir Mohamad is poised to becomethe world’s oldest prime minister after a stunning election victory against scandal-haunted leader Najib Razak.
In a win that overturns decades of dominance by the country’s main coalition, Mahathir has secured an unlikely second act in the twilight of his political career.
A former doctor who entered politics in 1964, Mahathir governed Malaysia with an iron fist for 22 years, with accusations of rights abuses overshadowing a period that also saw Malaysia transform from a sleepy Southeast Asian backwater into a relatively affluent country.
His return to frontline politics started when he fell out with his one-time protege Najib over allegations huge sums were looted from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
In a volte-face that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, Mahathir teamed up with parties that he suppressed while in power to take on the party he once led.
It was a gamble for the opposition coalition Pact of Hope to join forces with Mahathir, a divisive figure in the country.
He is remembered fondly by some as a champion of country’s Muslim Malay majority and the father of modern Malaysia, credited with policies that helped the economy blossom.
But he was also criticised for disregarding human rights, undermining the judiciary, jailing political opponents and pushing policies that exacerbated racial divisions in the multi-ethnic country.
He was notorious for his acid-tongued attacks on his foes and what he saw as Western neo-colonialism — in one outburst, he described Europeans as greedy, warmongering sexual deviants.