Malaysia election 2022: Former PM Mahathir loses seat in Langkawi, his first electoral defeat since 1969

Former Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad lost his seat Langkawi parliamentary seat after polling only 4,566 votes.
PHOTO: Reuters

KANGAR, Perlis - Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad lost his seat in Parliament after residents of Langkawi on Saturday voted to put Barisan Nasional (BN) back in control of the island. It is the 97-year-old’s first defeat in Malaysia’s parliamentary elections since he first won in 1964.

The seat was won by Datuk Suhaimi Abdullah from Perikatan Nasional (PN), with 25,463 votes. Tun Dr Mahathir, 97, managed to garner only 4,566 votes which was less than the 12.5 per cent vote threshold required to keep his deposit as a candidate.

Barisan Nasional’s Armishah Siraj, came in second with 11,945 votes. Datuk Armishah is a member of the Kampung Kuah Umno branch in Langkawi and is familiar with issues on the ground.

In comparison, Dr Mahathir won 54.9 per cent of the 34,527 valid votes in the 2018 General Election, beating BN’s 29.1 per cent.

Dr Mahathir’s loss comes despite widespread loyalty and appreciation for his contributions in Langkawi. He is widely respected for bringing prosperity and development to the island by declaring it a tax-free haven in 1987, when he was Malaysia’s premier. The move drew a slew of tourism investments, including an international airport, ferry services and luxury hotels.

This loss deals a final blow to Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang), which contested a total of 121 parliamentary seats, 13 of which were in Kedah. Kedah, which includes Langkawi, is also Dr Mahathir’s home state.

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Voters were unconvinced by Dr Mahathir’s promise of repairing the country’s economy and bringing back foreign investments and jobs by eradicating corruption within the government and cleaning up some RM42 billion ($12.7 billion) in national debt racked by up former PM Najib Razak.

Others had grown disenchanted with Dr Mahathir’s leadership after he resigned as PM in 2020 and failed to hand over the reins of government to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as promised.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.