Malaysia's then interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gestures during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya on February 27, 2020. Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan

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Four months after his shock resignation, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has his sights set on yet another political comeback. In league with multi-racial opposition parties, the elder statesman hopes to unseat yet another ally-turned-foe successor whose rule he claims threatens a return to corrupt and authoritarian misrule.

Prevailing in an against-all-odds election win in 2018, Mahathir partnered with his estranged protégé and former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, to topple scandal-plagued Najib Razak’s premiership, heralding Malaysia’s first-ever democratic transfer of power and bringing an end to the United Malays National Organization’s (UMNO) 61-year rule.

Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, however, fell less than two years into its mandate, as the leadership of his own party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), or Bersatu, staged a political coup and formed a new, unelected government propped by UMNO that brought incumbent Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to power in February.

In a wide-ranging interview with Asia Times’ Nile Bowie and Shawn W Crispin, the nonagenarian politician articulated his plans to recapture the premiership for an unprecedented third term, touching on everything from his relationship with Anwar, his leadership legacy and Malaysia’s place amid intensifying US-China superpower rivalry.