After all the analysing done by pundits on Malaysias political dynamics in the post-Mahathir period, the country has now come to the strange point of being in a potential pre-Mahathir period.

There is now the more-than-theoretical possibility that 92-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad will return to lead the country, should the opposition coalition win the coming general election. Though unlikely, the chances of that happening are not exactly slim.

In many ways, Malaysia has been locked in a period of transition for two decades. One could say this was triggered by the Reformasi movement in 1998 when the countrys two top leaders fell out with each other, and behind that, by the socio-economic travails ignited by the Asian Financial Crisis; or one could claim that it began with Mahathirs retirement in October 2003, or that it started with the surprising results of the 2008 elections when the ragtag opposition managed on election night to win five of the 13 states.

Behind these unending trends lies the fact that a new generation of young leaders some inspired by the 1998 protests but most thrust into the limelight in 2008 have been waiting impatiently to take over but are still playing merely a supporting role, not only because the old leaders are still active but also because of the solidi...