GEORGE TOWN, Jan 25 — The DAP-led state government in Penang cannot afford to take it easy if it wishes to secure a new mandate in the next general election, its leader Chow Kon Yeow said.

The Penang DAP chairman noted the emergence of new political parties since Election 2018 made for a “crowded field”, even though the number of voters has also increased substantially.

“It will be a crowded field in the coming GE with the entry of several new political parties,” he told Malay Mail recently when asked about the expansion of Parti Warisan Sabah to the peninsula.

Chow also noted that while the lowering of the voting age will increase the number of people eligible to cast their ballots, it meant “every vote is up for grabs”. 

Malay Mail reported earlier this month that the Election Commission (EC) is expecting to add 5.8 new voters to the electoral roll for any election called after January 16. Deputy EC chairman Azmi Sharom said 1.2 million are estimated to come from youths aged between 18 and 21.

Chow said this means every political party will be going all out to make an impact with their electoral promises.

“The voters will make the final decision based on the track records and performances of the contesting parties and candidates,” he said. 

Though Penang is regarded as a DAP stronghold — the party has helmed the state government since Election 2008 — Chow said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition cannot afford to rest on its laurels nor be distracted from service.

“We will not underestimate any opponent and will work diligently to make every vote count,” he stressed. 

The PH coalition comprising DAP, PKR and Amanah welcomed Sabah-based Upko as its newest component last August.

Chow said PH's campaign will target at achieving a new mandate to govern and the coalition will remain focused with its core support. 

He said Penang PH aspires to provide a better future as the state recovers from the health, economic and political crisis. 

As the incumbent, Chow said PH respects all political opponents in the upcoming general elections. 

“It is for them to prove themselves worthy of the people’s support,” he added.

Political scientist James Chin said the Sabah-based Warisan appears to be targeting the urban voters in its peninsula foray, and could possibly draw voters away from DAP.

“The big group coming in is Muda who are targeting young voters. The question is whether they can gain support from the young voters,” he told Malay Mail.

Muda is the acronym for the multicultural and youth-centric Malaysian United Democratic Alliance, formed in September 2020 by Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, and formally approved by the Registrar of Societies as a political party last month after a lengthy process.

To Chin, Warisan's strategy in taking in defectors from other parties such as DAP is a high risk strategy as voters do not take kindly to defectors. 

The director of Asia Institute, University of Tasmania said this was clearly demonstrated in the Melaka state election last November, and will be shown again in the upcoming Johor state election.

He said Warisan's fate in peninsular Malaysia depends on who they recruit to lead the party.

“If they recruit a very senior leader to act as leader in the next GE, then yes [they will make an impact] but if they keep recruiting defectors, then the answer is no,” Chin said.

The Johor state assembly was dissolved on January 22. An election has to be called within 60 days. The Election Commission has yet to announce one.

The DAP lost several prominent members to Warisan recently. 

Last Saturday, Teratai assemblyman Bryan Lai Wai Chong announced he is now a Warisan member, along with former Penang state executive councillor Datuk Danny Law who resigned from DAP last week and former Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi.

Ooi, who is now the Penang Warisan coordinator, told a press conference here yesterday that the party plans to contest in all state and parliamentary seats in Penang in the next general election.