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Mahathir bin Mohamad

Mahathir bin Mohamad (mähäˈtĭr bĭn mōhämˈäd) [key], 1925–, Malaysian political leader. A doctor by training, he first entered parliament in 1964 and rose in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), but lost his seat and was expelled from UMNO in 1969 after criticizing Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. Subsequently readmitted into UMNO, he was reelected to parliament in 1974 and held several ministerial posts in the 1970s, including deputy prime minister beginning in 1976. Prime minister of the UMNO-led National Front coalition government after 1981, Mahathir sought to make Malaysia an industrial nation and develop Malay businesses, and promoted nonindividualistic "Asian values" while often denouncing the West. Although Malaysia made enormous and rapid economic progress under Mahathir, political stability was maintained by not tolerating dissent and restricting political freedoms, and his government was denounced for human-rights abuses. He retired as prime minister in 2003 and was succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Out of office he has continued to be outspoken and has been critical of the Malaysian government. In 2008 he resigned from the UMNO in protest against his successor's leadership and the party's poor showing in the national elections; he rejoined the party after Abdullah stepped down in 2009. Mahathir defended his record in his 2011 memoir, A Doctor in the House.

See biography by B. Wain (2010); study by I. Stewart (2003).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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