Timeline Table

Political Timeline

The timeline below illustrates the main events that took place during Mahathir’s 22 years in office. It was extracted from Boo Teik, Khoo’s book titled “Beyond Mahathir: Malaysian Politics and Its Discontents”.
Brief summaries of the different political parties and politicians are listed under the navigation tab “basic facts”.

Some names have been abbreviated in the timeline table, they are as follows:
Mahathir: Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad
Hussein Onn: Tun Hussein bin Dato’ Onn
Musa: Tun Musa bin Hitam
Razaleigh: Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh bin Hamzah
Ghafar Baba: Tun Ghafar Baba
Anwar: Dato’ Seri Anwar bin Ibrahim
Abdullah Badawi: Tun Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi

Political Parties:
UMNO: United Malays National Organization
DAP: Democratic Action Party
PAS: Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party

* Tun, Tan Sri, Dato’ Seri and Datuk are Federal or State titles awarded to notable Malaysians by the state Sultans (Kings) or the Head of Kings (Yang di-Pertuan Agong). ‘Tun’ is the highest honorific title awarded.
Tengku and Tunku generally precede names of royalties.
Names of ethnic Malays have bin and binti in between their first and last names, though it is often omitted. Binti is to indicate the female gender, whereas bin is for the male gender.

Timeline Table:


Political event(s)

Principal outcome

Major significance


Hussein Onn retires

Mahathir becomes Prime Minister

Commencement of reformism and liberalism

Musa and Razaleigh in UMNO Deputy President contest

Musa wins and becomes Deputy Prime Minister

Indications of UMNO’s factionalism


General election

1st Barisan Nasional (National Front) victory led by Mahathir

Mahathir’s new economic policies


Constitutional crisis

Stalemate between UMNO and royalty

Centralization of executive power.


2nd Musa and Razaleigh contest

Musa wins, Razaleigh loses finance ministry

Deepening UMNO factionalism.


Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Crisis

Tan Koo Swan becomes MCA president

Culmination of business and politics in MCA


Sabah (state) crisis

Rise of Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Parti Bersatu Sabah (United Sabah Party)

Kadazandusun* consciousness and federal-state strains


February: Musa resigned as Deputy Prime Minister

Ghafar Baba appointed Deputy Prime Minister

Disaffection with Mahathir’s leadership

General election

UMNO’s and DAP’s triumphs

Mahathir remains in power


Musa and Razaleigh formed Team B

Team B prepares to challenge Team A

Peak of UMNO’s factionalism.


UMNO election

Team A’s narrow victory

Purge of Team B and UMNO split

‘Operation Lalang’

Mass arrests of opponents

End of Mahathirist liberalism


UMNO’s deregistration as a party

Formation of UMNO Baru (New UMNO)

Team B dissidents excluded

Judicial crisis

Impeachment of Supreme Court judges

Mahathirist authoritarianism


Several by-elections: mixed victories

Persistent dissent against UMNO Baru

Inconclusive tests of political strength


Parti Semangat 46 formed

Razaleigh leads Team B in opposition

Basis of new coalitions in opposition


General election

Barisan Nasional’s (National Front) victory

Two-coalition system; PAS’s return in Kelantan state


Vision 2020

New Mahathirist agenda

National Development Policy


UMNO election; Anwar ready to challenge Ghafar

Wawasan Team victory

Anwar becomes Deputy Prime Minister


Sabah (state) election

Parti Bersatu Sabah’s (United Sabah Party) narrow victory, toppled by defections

New federal-state relations


General election

Barisan Nasional’s (National Front) triumph, DAP’s defeat

Dominance of Vision 2020


Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (political party) split

Razaleigh and Semangat 46 return to UMNO

PAS threatened in Kelantan


UMNO election

Mahathir and Anwar unchallenged

Anwar regarded as ‘anointed successor’


July: East Asian financial crisis

Depreciation, devaluation of currency and disinvestment

State-market conflict, and recession


1 September: capital controls

Capital controls and ‘economic shield’

Policies of rescue, recapitalization, reflation


2 September: Anwar’s dismissal

Beginning of Anwar’s persecution

Anwar calls for Reformasi (reformation)


November 1998 – April 1999: Anwar’s first trial on charges of corruption

Reformasi protests amidst controversial trial proceedings

Anwar convicted and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment


Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front) contests November general election

BN’s victory but with major UMNO losses

UMNO’s loss of Malay support; PAS returns to power in Kelantan and Terengganu


2nd Anwar trial and charges of sodomy

Continuing protests over equally controversial trial proceedings

Anwar convicted and sentence to 9 years imprisonment


ISA (Internal Security Act) arrests of Keadilan leaders and alleged KMM (Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia – Mujahidin Malaysia Group) members; DAP – PAS differences; ‘September 11’

Keadilan crippled, DAP leaves Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front)

End of alternative coalition


Mahathir announces his intention to resign during 50th UMNO assembly

UMNO compromise on Mahathir’s departure

Transition to Abdullah Badawi’s leadership

*Kadazan and Dusun are two indigenous groups in Malaysia.

Back to top
Last Updated Wednesday, April 13, 2009   Contact me at teh20y@mtholyoke.edu
Copyright © 2009 Yen Ping, Teh