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James Chin

The Man to Fix Malaysia

Only Mahathir can reverse the country’s most destructive policy.

A unique opportunity. 

A unique opportunity. 

Photographer: Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images

At 92, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is now the world’s oldest elected leader. He’s also the first to return to power after a lapse of 15 years, at the helm of a different political party. His place in Asian history is assured.

There’s still room, however, to burnish his legacy. Mahathir doesn’t plan to remain in office long, only until his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim is pardoned of sodomy charges and wins a by-election for parliament. As a transitional prime minister, and given his own history, Mahathir has a unique opportunity to change the one and only thing holding Malaysia back: the bumiputera, or “sons of the soil” policy.