Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Sunday that he will "not necessarily" call a snap election next year, amid talk that he would seek an early vote as splits in the opposition have hobbled efforts to oust him over a long-running financial scandal.
The multi-ethnic Southeast Asian country is due to hold an election by August 2018, and a government official has told Reuters that Najib could call for a poll in the second half of 2017.
But in an interview published in The Star daily on Sunday, Najib, who has led the country since 2009, suggested he was in no hurry to call for a vote, and remarked on the current lack of a "feel good factor" among Malaysians.
"Not necessarily... it can be later," Najib replied when asked whether an election could be called sometime next year.
"With today's economic situation, it's going to be a challenge because you don't see the world economy on a rising trend. It's going to be much more the same next year, as the year before," Najib said.
Najib has been battling calls to step down over a scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The U.S. Justice Department filed lawsuits in July alleging misappropriation of over $3.5 billion from the fund and that some of those flowed into the accounts of "Malaysian Official 1", whom U.S. and Malaysian officials have identified as Najib.
Najib has denied wrongdoing and has consolidated power by sacking critics within his ruling party and cracking down on dissent.