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07 December 2023

Malaysia's Mahathir gatecrashes 'too old to be PM' forum

Photo: AFP


Sick of people sniping about his advancing years, Malaysia's 92-year-old ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad gatecrashed a forum where voters were discussing whether he was too old to return as prime minister.

"I am here guys. Say it to my face," tweeted a defiant Mahathir, who is seeking the top job again as the opposition's candidate in looming polls, with a picture of himself at the discussion late Thursday.

Mahathir, who was premier for 22 years, has returned to frontline politics after a 15-year break to take on scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak at the election due by August.

But his old age has raised questions about his ability to rule if the opposition succeeds in toppling the long-ruling coalition. In the unlikely event Najib is unseated, Mahathir would become the world's oldest prime minister.

At Thursday's forum, a three-man panel was talking about Mahathir when the man himself walked in midway, causing the speakers to fall silent them and many in the hall to rise to their feet.

The panel - which consisted of a political pundit, psychology expert and fitness coach - stopped their discussions and opened the floor for Mahathir to speak.

"There are two types of age. One in terms of years and another in terms of the body. The age of the body does not necessarily equate to the age in years," he told the forum in Shah Alam, outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.

"As far as health is concerned, I'm not senile yet."

The government has frequently attacked Mahathir over his age, with Najib comparing him to ousted Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, who is 94.