Delegates at the Penang DAP convention on Sunday were told of an increase in the party's presence in Malay-majority constituencies, especially in mainland Penang areas such as Kepala Batas, whose MP since 1978 is former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Kepala Batas delegate Mohd Saiful Ismail (right) said the number of DAP branches there have grown from two to 12 as a result of growing support in the Umno stronghold.
"We would like to thank the party for its continuous support in Kepala Batas. Even though we are not contesting in the area, we get much support from party leaders," Mohd Saiful said during the debate session.
This is considered surprising as the state seats under Kepala Batas - Penaga, Bertam and Pinang Tunggal - are considered safe seats for Umno, with 75 percent of voters there being Malays.
In the coming general election, Umno may field the division's Youth chief, Reezal Merican Naina Merican, who courted controversy by declaring at the recent Umno general assembly that "Umno is chosen by God", while Penang PAS Youth secretary Afnan Hamimi Taib Azamudin is most likely to take him on.
Umno: DAP strong, PKR weak
Penang Umno Youth chief Shaik Hussein Mydin says the increasing DAP presence in Nibong Tebal is possible because PKR, led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has not been effective, and has become a ‘sleeping partner' in Pakatan.
"PKR is not doing its work. As a Pakatan partner, the DAP has to ensure that PKR wins in order for DAP to continue to govern Penang," Shaik Hussein (left) told Malaysiakini.
"The increase in DAP branches shows that PKR supporters are on the decrease in that area. I suggest that DAP contests in the PKR seats, since its national chairman Karpal Singh claims the party can retain all its 19 seats in Penang."
Besides DAP's 19 state seats, PKR has nine and PAS one, while Umno won 11 in the 2008 election. Gerakan and MCA were completely wiped out.
Shaik Hussein said If PKR wins any seat in Penang in the coming election, it would only be possible with the help of DAP. Therefore, the DAP should demand more seats in the coming general election because "every PKR seat in Penang is a winning seat for the BN".
‘Malays have lost faith in Umno'
On this, Mohd Saiful, who is Penaga branch chief, rejected Shaik Hussein claim when contacted, saying Malay support for DAP did not reflect the weaknesses of its partners, PAS or PKR.
Instead, this phenomena merely proved that the Malay community has lost faith in Umno, which claims to defend Malay interests, and they were learning more about the DAP's struggles, Mohd Saiful said.
"What the voters understand, and want, is to topple Umno, so they will accept any party, whether the candidates are from DAP, PAS or PKR," added the 29-year-old Seberang Perai municipal councillor.
Mohd Saiful, who entered politics by joining DAP in 2009, said he was more comfortable with the multi-ethnic and multi-religious party, adding that he was attracted to its struggle for a Malaysian Malaysia.
The Kepala Batas DAP Socialist Youth chief has been busy implementing various programmes for the party and explaining to the grassroots that DAP is not "racist" as claimed by its opponents in Umno and BN.
"Praise be to God. Every programme we organise is well attended," said Mohd Saiful, whose branch is located within the constituency of Penang opposition leader Azhar Ibrahim.
"Membership increase has been so encouraging that we now have 12 branches," said Mohd Saiful, who formed his own branch in Penaga with the help of the party's Kepala Batas chief Lye Hock Peng.