SINGAPORE, Nov 13 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad joked today that he had to contest in the 14th general election because he failed “engineer a coup” in Malaysia.

In his acceptance speech after he was conferred the Distinguished Honorary Patron Award by the Asean Federation of Engineering Organisations (AFEO) here, the prime minister also recalled that he had initially wanted to be a lawyer instead of taking up medicine.

“Now, I’m going to be an engineer,” he said to loud applause in the hall.


“I could have engineered a coup in my country. I tried, but I failed. So I had to resort to standing in the election,” he said to laughter from the attendees.

He also conceded that campaigning for the general election was tough, and he did not really think that Pakatan Harapan could have succeeded.

“Even now, I keep pinching myself to ensure that I am still the prime minister of Malaysia,” he added, to more applause.


Earlier, Dr Mahathir said when he was young, he had set out to earn a degree after deciding to enter politics as he felt “villagers would not have believed what [he] told them” without one.

“I don’t know if I have been involved in engineering politics. Some people suspect that I do... It’s a bit too late for me to learn engineering, but in the field of politics I’ve done quite well,” he said.

In the citation for his award, the group lauded Dr Mahathir’s “scientific and visionary leadership”, pointing to numerous mega infrastructure projects in Malaysia during his previous tenure.

“As a leader, Tun Dr Mahathir has succeeded in constructing and communicating convincingly a clear and persuasive message for change anchored on science, engineering and technology.

“His vision for Malaysia saw him converging the best minds in engineering to achieve fruition of projects and engineering marvels, hitherto associated only with the most advanced countries,” read AFEO fellow and past president of Institution of Engineers Malaysia, Tan Sri Ahmad Zaidee Laidin.

Dr Mahathir had earlier today been conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the National University of Singapore.