Mahathir used security laws to put his political opponents behind bars. His critics say he restricted free speech and persecuted political opponents – none more so than his former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, who remains in jail on charges of sodomy and corruption.
Mahathir has joined hands with Anwar in this campaign and has promised to seek a royal pardon for him. He has vowed to then step aside and let Anwar be prime minister.
Mahathir was masterly in playing to the feelings of the mainly Muslim ethnic Malay majority. His 1970 book, The Malay Dilemma, argued that ethnic Malays, whom he called the nation’s rightful owners, were being eclipsed economically by ethnic Chinese.
Faced with a leadership challenge after just five years in office, Mahathir detained more than 100 opposition politicians, academics and social activists without trial, under internal security laws.