NOW comes the hard part.
For Ramkarpal Singh Deo, getting elected as Bukit Gelugor Member of Parliament is an easier feat than trying to fit into his late father’s shoes.
When Bukit Gelugor electorate decided to allow him to carry on where his late father had left, they expect him to perform better, if not on a par with their former MP.
This is not going to be easy. Karpal was a functional representative both in and outside Parliament and his years of experience in politics left only few in comparison.
His death was a great loss to Bukit Gelugor residents; now that they had given their trust to his son Ramkarpal, expectations are very high.
Karpal had been their MP since 2004, since the parliamentary constituency was created in a redelineation exercise of the electoral boundaries by the Election Commission.
In GE13, Bukit Gelugor voters were more than happy to allow Karpal to continue to be their voice in Parliament. They had put 55,839 crosses against the leader’s name on the ballot papers, enabling him to win 41,778 votes more than his challenger Teh Beng Yeam from MCA, who got 14,961 votes.
Another huge challenge for Ramkarpal is to get endorsement on his own leadership values. There is no argument that the 38-year-old lawyer rode on symphathy and sentiments for his late father.
“He has to get endorsement on his leadership values,” said Penang-based political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian from Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Some Penang DAP leaders were not in favour of the party leadership fielding Ramkarpal, more out of fear that the party would be criticised for practising nepotism.
True, Ramkarpal’s winning majority is short by a few hundreds from what Karpal had obtained in GE13, but this does not mean he does not enjoy the support of the majority.
This situation is more due to lower voter turnout — at 56% — more than anything else.
He had won with a majority of 37,659 votes over his rivals Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) vice-president Huan Cheng Guan and two Independents, Mohamed Nabi Bux Mohd Nabi Abdul Sathar and Abu Backer Sidek, all of whom have lost their deposits.
The highly probable reason for the low turnout was that voters felt their votes were not much needed since Ramkarpal was a clear winner, being the indisputable front-runner since day one.
Another contributing factor was that the DAP was not facing its traditional Barisan Nasional (BN) rival candidate from MCA which has opted out from the contest.
There is a possibility that members of BN parties, including from MCA, had stayed away from voting.
It’s also a likelihood that outstation voters did not return as they were confident of DAP retaining its traditional seat.
“Its common to see low voter turnout if BN did not contest,” said Sivamurugan, citing the 2009 Penanti by-election where the turnout was 46.1% and Parti Keadilan Rakyat candidate Datuk Dr Mansor Othman collected 85 per cent of votes from the 7,100 who turned out to vote.
DAP can sigh a relief that Ramkarpal has successfully made his political debut by retaining Bukit Gelugor. The party can now focus on its other political novice, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud in the Teluk Intan electoral battle at the end of this month.
Bukit Gelugor certainly gives much needed morale support to DAP in a fight where its candidate is the underdog, facing off Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Keong, who has more experience.