Malaysia's prime minister Najib Razak, mired in a growing international scandal over state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, urged a rally of supporters at the weekend not to think of him as a "crook" as he fights to retain control of the ruling party.
Mr Najib said that he had never misappropriated public property. Malaysia's government is battling pressure from global regulators over allegations of corruption linked to 1MDB.
At home, leading figures from the governing United Malays National Organisation have combined with opposition parties to call for the prime minister's removal.
Mohamed Apandi Ali, Malaysia's attorney-general, has cleared Mr Najib of any wrongdoing over payments of $681m into his personal bank account. Critics allege the transfers were linked to 1MDB, which is denied by the prime minister and the fund.
At a rally in his home state of Pahang at the weekend, Mr Najib declared: "I haven't changed my principles as a prime minister. I'll never steal public property. Don't think I'm a crook. Don't believe that I've stolen public property. I'm the people's prime minister."
The remarks, reported by local media including the state news agency, indicate mounting concern that Mr Najib may be losing his grip on the grassroots of the party, which has dominated Malaysia's politics since independence.