Mahathir wins - now what?

DR. MAHATHIR MOHAMAD has been returned as Prime Minister of Malaysia and his National Front alliance has retained its two-thirds majority in parliament having won 148 of the 193 seats. The news means that Mahathir can now push ahead unhindered with his plans to use technology-related industries to turn Malaysian into a fully-industrialized nation by the year 2020.

The opposition parties did better than in the past with the Islamic Party increasing its parliamentary seats from eight to 27. The winning candidates included Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of jailed former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. But the opposition suffered a setback with the defeat of the government's most vocal critic Lim Kit Siang who was beaten by one of Mahathir's candidates.

But it was a imperfect result for 73-year-old Mahathir because his United Malays National Organization won only 72 of the National Front's 148 seats compared to 94 in the previous government. The defeated included several of Mahathir's ministers.

This will not stop Mahathir pushing ahead with his plans and we expect that now that the election is out of the way there will be a decision about the future of Malaysian involvement in Formula 1. There have been rumors in recent weeks of a deal involving the national oil company Petronas, the national car company Proton and its subsidiary Lotus Cars which will result in a Lotus-designed Formula 1 engine.

Petronas is currently sponsoring the Sauber team but the departure of commercial director Fritz Kaiser may change the situation as it was Kaiser who did the original deal for Sauber. Kaiser is believed to be investigating the possibility of buying a shareholding in a British-based team, having concluded that it is not possible to create a competitive F1 operation in Switzerland.

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