Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday (1 December) promised to fight for Malays and Islam until the end, while warning them of "nightmares" if his ruling party failed to retain power in the elections that he said are "coming soon".
He addressed the annual meeting of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UNMO) and called on his party members to prepare for early polls. He also cautioned that Islam will be demeaned if the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) opposition group comes to power.
"We pledge to fight to the end and to the last drop of blood, even if our lives are lost," Najib told a cheering crowd. "Let us realise, my people, not to falter for even a moment as we are faced with challenges that we have never seen before," Reuters reported.
Najib has resisted several attempts to oust him from the prime ministerial role by winning two by-elections earlier this year. Although he has retained support, Malaysians are still reported to be frustrated with him over graft and a slumping economy.
"I know, many can feel the heat at this assembly, and are waiting for directives to prepare to battle in the elections that are coming soon," Najib said.
The prime minister also repeated his support for strict Islamic laws in the country, called hudud, in a bid to bolster support of Malay Muslims voters.
Reuters said Najib delivered a racially charged hour-long speech at the party meeting warning Malay Muslims that they must fear the "adverse effects" they may face if DAP wins the elections.
"Because of that, the people should keep choosing us forever," Najib said.
A government source told the news agency that Najib may call for early polls in the second half of 2017.
On 19 November, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding Najib's resignation.
He has been at the centre of an alleged multi-billion dollar corruption scandal, which led him to face the biggest challenge to his leadership. The US Justice Department had filed lawsuits in July claiming that the prime minister had more than $700m (£558m) of the misappropriated funds that allegedly flowed into his account. However, he has denied all the allegations.