Making things more confusing for outsiders is the fact Mahathir himself was responsible for much of that dominance, as strongman leader of the Barisan Nasional coalition during his 22 years in power from 1981 to 2003.
As the former head of Barisan Nasional, Mahathir served 22 years as the country’s leader before retiring in 2003.
In retirement, Mahathir was a constant critic of Abdullah, though his barbs were nothing compared to his subsequent attacks on Najib.
During his decades in power, Mahathir ruled as a strongman leader and frequently used the draconian Internal Security Act to go after critics and enemies.
Indeed, many of the problems with Malaysian politics criticized by Mahathir and his allies in their campaign against Najib were put in place by the former leader, according to Yang Razali Kassim, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).
“It is ironic that the man who crushed the opposition while in power has remade himself in retirement as the de facto leader of what in essence is a citizens’ revolt,” he said ahead of the vote.