The longest serving Malaysian leader shrugs off suggestion that he should retire due to his old age.

Mahathir holds a Guinness World Record for being the
Mahathir holds a Guinness World Record for being the "world's oldest current prime minister" - which he gained when he became premier for the second time in 2018. (AFP)

Mahathir Mohamad, a permanent feature of Malaysian politics for decades, has filed his candidacy as campaigning for upcoming general elections began.

In a highly competitive race, the world’s longest-serving coalition is seeking to regain its dominance four years after a shocking electoral loss.

The November19 election will determine if Barisan Nasional (BN), or National Front coalition, can make a strong comeback or whether its opponents can secure another surprise win. 

Led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), BN has ruled since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

Having registered his candidacy on Saturday, the 97-year-old Mahathir will stand again to defend his parliamentary seat in the holiday island of Langkawi. 

Mahathir said he stands a "good chance" of winning, laughing off suggestions he should retire.

"I'm still standing around and talking to you, I think making reasonable answers," he told reporters in Langkawi.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob called for elections 10 months ahead of schedule, with governing party of jailed ex-leader Najib Razak seeking to cement its political comeback four years after it was dramatically voted out.

Ismail, of the UMNO, and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, have also filed their candidacies elsewhere in the country.

An opposition victory can also help Anwar achieve a long-held dream of becoming prime minister.

READ MORE: Malaysian PM dissolves Parliament, calls snap polls

More than 21 million Malaysians will cast ballots to fill 222 seats in federal Parliament and choose representatives for three state legislatures.

Ready for the third time

Anwar, 75, didn’t participate in the 2018 vote because he was in prison. 

The PH campaign was led at the time by Mahathir, who became the world’s oldest leader at 92 after its victory. 

Anwar was pardoned shortly afterward and was to take over the baton from Mahathir. 

But distrust and infighting led to the PH government’s collapse, sparking political turmoil that has continued under the new governments that took power. 

Malaysia has had three prime ministers since the 2018 polls. 

Mahathir, who was the leader of Southeast Asian nation from 1981 to 2003, came out of retirement to lead the opposition PH (also known as Pact of Hope) alliance in the previous election. 

The alliance won a stunning victory over then-incumbent Najib, who was later convicted of corruption linked to the 1MDB state fund financial scandal and is now serving a 12-year jail sentence.

Mahathir became premier again just two months shy of his 93rd birthday, but his government collapsed in less than two years due to infighting.

He has warned that Najib would be freed if the jailed politician's allies in UMNO win, signalling that corruption will be a key issue at the polls. 

He also offered to become prime minister a third time.

At least four blocs, including the one he leads, are vying for a majority in the Parliament, making it a tight contest.

READ MORE: Malaysia's top court upholds former PM Najib's jail sentence in 1MDB case

Source: TRTWorld and agencies