Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak put his party on a war footing yesterday as polls loom, vowing to "fight till the end" despite a massive financial scandal that has rocked his government.
The leader told the annual assembly of his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) -- which has ruled Muslim-majority Malaysia for six decades at the head of a coalition -- that the country was facing a "crucial election".
"In this battle we fight till the end, in this election we will emerge victorious", he told thousands of cheering delegates wearing the red colours of his party in Kuala Lumpur.
He also took a swipe at veteran former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who has come out of retirement in a bid to try to oust his government, comparing him to toppled Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe.
Elections must be called by August at the latest. Najib did not hint at a date in his speech but speculation is swirling that they will be take place early next year.
Najib's chances of winning a third term have been dented by explosive graft allegations. Billions were looted from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund that he founded in complex overseas deals which are being investigated in several countries.
Both Najib, who made no mention of the scandal during yesterday's speech, and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
The US Justice Department has led the charge in tackling the alleged pillaging, launching lawsuits through which it is seeking to recover $1.7 billion in assets thought to have been purchased with looted money, from artwork to high-end real estate.