However, it does not mean that Dr. Mahathir's era is over
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned yesterday. Formally, the head of the state in Malaysia is the sultan, but it was Dr. Mahathir who was the true leader of the country for 22 years.
During Mahathir Mohamad's stay in the office, Malaysia has accomplished impressive results in the economic development. From an agrarian country Malaysia has turned to an industrially developed state, an electronic industry state, first and foremost. However, Malaysia did not differ much from other countries of East and South-East Asia at this point (until the crisis of 1997 they were called the "Asian tigers"). The financial crisis exerted a smaller influence on Malaysia in comparison with South Korea or Thailand, for instance. It was also Dr. Mahathir's accomplishment. The Malaysian prime minister was rather cautious about the activities of the IMF which had given generous loans to Asian countries during previous decades.
Mahathir Mohamad became really famous after the crisis of 1997. Dr. Mahathir harshly criticized the policies of the IMF, the US and George Soros, having accused them of arranging the Asian crisis. The Malaysian prime minister gained even more popularity after that both in his fatherland and in so-called developing countries. Western politicians attempted to represent him as an eccentric and bizarre person, whose opinion does not deserve any attention.
However, Mahathir Mohamad has always been a sophisticated politician. He realized that the criticism of the US may bring very good dividend. That is why he has been reproaching the American administration on many occasions during the recent years. In 2001, for example, the Malaysian prime minister denounced the bombing of Afghanistan, having stated that the US had not provided convincing evidence to prove Talibs' connection with al-Qaida. Mahathir Mohamad has quickly gained the image of a successive critic of neocolonialism in general and of the American imperial policy in particular.
During the recent summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mahathir delivered a speech in which he had said that "Jews rule the world." Israel and the US immediately accused him of anti-Semitism and the Nazi propaganda. Yet, people rose in applause to Dr. Mahathir's speech at the summit. Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri gave Dr. Mahathir a standing ovation (these politicians are rather loyal to the US). In general, the reaction to Mahathir's speech was absolutely not logical, taking into consideration the persecution of national minorities in Malaysia. The Chinese make up one-third of the Malaysian population - they have fewer rights in comparison with the Malays. This detail has not been a concern to anyone for some strange reason.
It would be too early to say that Dr. Mahathir's era in Malaysia is over. He has stepped down as the Malaysian Prime Minister, although it does not mean that Mahathir has lost the influence on the government currently chaired by sworn-in Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It was Mahathir Mohamad who has chosen his successor, which means that he is completely certain of his loyalty. Most likely, Dr. Mahathir will become the Malaysian version of Deng Xiaoping – his opinion will be vital for every important decision.