KUALA LUMPUR - While the hunt is on for Malaysia's next prime minister, caretaker leader Muhyiddin Yassin appears to have not given up hope of remaining in the picture.
The recently resigned premier holds 35 signed statutory declarations from lawmakers, but it is not known who these declarations are in support of, The Star reported on Tuesday (Aug 17), citing an unnamed source.
The declarations are signed by the 31 MPs in Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and four independent MPs aligned to the party, said the source.
Following his resignation on Monday, an emotive video of Mr Muhyiddin's journey during his 18 months as prime minister, titled "Thank you Malaysians", was uploaded on his social media accounts.
Meanwhile, netizens have shared a TikTok video of his staff packing up his belongings in his office, scenes that tugged at the heartstrings of some Malaysians.
His Facebook post elicited 35,000 comments, with many urging him to stay on.
"I hope abah will return to defend us all. We are abah's children. I will still support Tan Sri Muhyiddin. Wait for the next general election," Facebook user Amy Pahang wrote on his page, using the "father" moniker Mr Muhyiddin often adopted to refer to himself in his speeches to the nation.
A Bersatu supreme council meeting on Monday night did not rule out Mr Muhyiddin making a comeback as the prime minister, said council member Eddin Syazlee Shith.
"The meeting decided to give full support to the party president to decide who will be Perikatan Nasional's (PN) prime ministerial candidate," Mr Eddin was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini news website.
"If the president is still interested, then it will be the president," he added.
When asked during a news conference on Monday if he may yet be reappointed, Tan Sri Muhyiddin replied: "Well, let's see."
"Before I quit, I was the prime minister with the largest majority," he said. "We are politicians, we have our information. No one has a bigger majority than I do."
His PN alliance is currently backed by 100 MPs, which is still short of the 111 lawmakers needed to form a simple majority in Malaysia's Parliament.
"Many Malaysians asked, 'Abah, please stay on and don't quit, we love you.' It's very touching. I wish I could do that but under parliamentary democracy, the position of the prime minister is based on the provisions of the federal Constitution," he said.
Mr Muhyiddin also indicated that he will be leading Bersatu into the next general election, which is not due until 2023.
"God willing, if people think our report card for the past year has been good, and if they feel comfortable seeing abah's face again, we will give them a chance to consider voting for us again," he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight news website.
An editorial in the Malay-language Sinar Harian daily on Tuesday heaped praise on his tenure.
"Muhyiddin's strength to go through all the obstacles is enough to prove he is a statesman carved in the country's history," it said.
"His political career is not yet over. In Malaysian politics, anything can happen and only time will tell," it added.
Some analysts have not ruled out the possibility that he may return as Malaysia's ninth prime minister.
"Muhyiddin cannot be ruled out yet. In the event of a deadlock, his peace plan may be accepted for him to come back as minority PM on a CSA (confidence-and-supply agreement) with PH (Pakatan Harapan) or at least the Democratic Action Party," said political scientist Wong Chin Huat of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia, referring to a raft of reforms that the former premier had offered to the opposition last Friday.
However, others have said that his comeback chances are slim.
"The people won't want the same administration as before. When there is a loss of majority causing the PN government to fall, then his support and popularity as PM will also be gone," said sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi of University Malaya.