We need to be strategic in the upcoming by-elections for the Punggol East constituency.
As I had discussed before, the reason why PAP has decided to call for a by-elections all of a sudden is because they know that they will lose even more votes if they delay the by-elections. PAP had initially adopted a wait-and-see attitude, hoping that the case of the unfair treatment towards the SMRT bus drivers will blow over, but never would they have imagined how the PAP-Aim-AHTC incident would enrage Singaporeans to the extend that it did – and PAP wasn’t able to control the ground sentiment. They couldn’t shape the discourse further, not even when they had evoke the powers of their ‘spiritual’ leader. So, at this point, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to salvage the situation in the next 3 to 5 months. Within this period, Singaporeans will definitely demand that a by-election be held. PAP cannot wait for until after half a year to call the by-elections (hoping that the Aim episode will blow over by then), so they have no choice, but to do it now.
This isn’t the best time for them to call the by-elections because their reputation has already taken a train wreck. But, if they do not call for a by-elections in the next 2 to 3 months, then their credibility will be further questioned – there won’t be a suitable explanation to deny people their ‘democratic’ right for so long. But even then, the Aim incident wouldn’t have left people’s minds sufficiently, and it might potentially get even more complicated for PAP, so they cannot wait for until after 2 to 3 months, without having a clear gauge as to how the Aim incident will pan out, and what other information will break loose from their control. So, calling for the by-elections now is really their safest bet. They have to – make or break.
But PAP knows this – the ground sentiment has shifted. At the general elections of 2011, they had won only 54.54% of the votes at the Punggol East SMC. Will votes swing 5% away from the PAP? I think there is a very high possibility that this might happen. At the general elections of 2011, PAP had come out, shed tears and made grand promises about how they will make major changes to Singapore, how they will listen to Singaporeans, and how they will be our servants. After one year, do you think Singaporeans have felt any difference? I think the answer is pretty clear.
They might have changed the policies towards foreign workers, but this is pretty much the only major policy change that they have done. But this would not significantly impact on Singaporeans’ mindsets – this is because the essential issue that Singaporeans are unhappy about, with regards to the foreign workers, isn’t about the foreign workers – so amending the policies is only a symbolic move. What Singaporeans are really unhappy about is with their depressed wages, a transportation system that is sub-par, rising prices (housing, COE etc). And very truthfully, what has changed? I will quickly reiterate what I have said before – wages continued to drop in 2011 by 0.8% (even after the general elections!) and housing prices and COE premiums have grown unabated. Singaporeans feel that the transportation system hasn’t been rectified, yet the government had given $1.1 billion to SMRT to buy more buses. Huh?
Do you know why they had decided to conduct Our National Conversation? It has been plan to stretch through into 2013, so that from 2013 – 2014, they would then start looking through what had been discussed in the conversations and maybe by 2015, they can start to implement just some of the ideas, and if you want them to do more, in 2016, vote for us (PAP) again, so that we can do more for you. Our National Conversation is a way to prolong what they already know about how we feel, and what they need to do for Singaporeans, but which they do not want to immediately have to do yet – so Our National Conversation will plug that time gap that they need before they are forced to act on anything at all just before the 2016 elections.
Like I say, we need to be strategic. Very certainly, PAP will lose more votes at the by-elections, compared to the general elections of 2011. Will votes swing by at least 5%? I am not surprised if it swung even more, by maybe 8% or 9%. Will PAP lose? I would say, it is an almost certainty – but if we are strategic.
Then the question is, if we don’t vote for PAP, who should we vote for? Right now, the other parties – WP, SDP, SDA and RP – have all thrown their hats into the ring. WP and SDA had stood for elections at GE 2011, so they think that they have the rightful authority to run for elections there again.
Just looking at WP and SDA, you do not have to guess to know who stand a significantly way much higher chance. SDA got only less than 5% of the votes in GE 2011. Will their vote count change drastically this time round? It would most probably not, and might in fact drop, because to many Singaporeans, they have disappeared from the radar.
Then, if you look at SDA and RP, you have to understand their strategies for wanting to stand (for now). This is my take – the SDP will eventually not stand in for elections at this by-elections. I think the SDP knows where it stands among Singaporeans and it knows that Singaporeans are beginning to look at it more favourably. So, they want to use this opportunity to raise their profile, so that they can get themselves more into the minds of Singaporeans. This is especially so, because there will be more media coverage of the opposition parties because of the by-elections, so you need to get yourself out now to stay relevant. But what I think SDP will do is that they will eventually let WP take the lead to run – a part of me wants to believe they are ethical and responsible, and they know what needs to be done for the greater good of Singapore. So, in short, I think SDP wants to use the increased media coverage over the by-elections to raise their profile, but would not compete so that they can allow WP to win safely. And to be sure, this is a very smart and strategic move that they are making.
What about RP? Honestly, I do not know what they are trying to do.
I would like to also talk about NSP at this point – in my opinion, NSP is a very honest party. They do not want to strategise to ‘play the politics’, and that’s why they have chosen to sit out. They know Punggol East is WP’s turf, as agreed upon in the past elections and they respect that. Also, NSP’s view is whoever have the good of Singaporeans in their minds should lead, and they will always be there to give their support. And that’s why they have sit out. From a public relations perspective, it doesn’t help NSP. But it’s not credit and fame that they are looking out for, so they don’t mind being quiet.
So, with all this in mind, if it continues to be PAP, WP, SDA, SDP and RP who will contest for the by-elections, how will the votes go? If you ask me, PAP might then get 40% (or maybe even 38%) of the votes. The rest of the votes will be split with SDA and RP getting around 3% to 5% of the votes, SDP another 8% too 9% of the votes, with the rest going to WP – this means that WP might get between to 41% to 48% of the votes, but they might get a lower vote count, depending on how far the votes will swing away from PAP, and the increase in support for SDP will rise.
In any case, WP might either lose by a very marginal loss, or win by a marginal win – if it continues to be a multi-party election. And why is this the case? For sure, there are votes which will swing from PAP. But how do Singaporeans feel about the opposition parties – it is unclear because the change among Singaporeans have become less predictable – among the opposition parties, WP and SDP (and not forgetting NSP) hold sway among the people, but for this by-elections, it’s really about how much sway SDP might have been able to pull away. But the question is – should this by-elections be the tool to gauge what sentiments on ground are? It should not – this by-elections should be an opportunity to show PAP how unhappy Singaporeans are. PAP need to have a strong solid loss and whichever party wins need to have a strong solid win. (Of course, this is only local elections, and there are many things they can do before the next elections to stabilise their control, as they had in the past.) But this by-elections will also be significant as it will be very symbolic if an opposition party wins solidly – it will build the momentum and speed at which Singaporeans will awaken. The group that panders towards PAP will also have an awakening in their beliefs in PAP. So, there are many symbolic significance as to how we need to be strategic.
As said, SDA and RP will not win big at all – if they make a dent, it won’t give them credit and it won’t matter to them. But what it would do is to reduce the power at which the opposition party that wins win solidly and symbolically. For SDP, my take is that they won’t run, but they have a strategic viewpoint to raise their presence through the heightened media coverage.
Clearly, if this is what PAP thinks like this as well, there is a very strong interest for them to ensure that there are as many parties involved as possible, so that it will first, dilute vote share for all parties, and second, send out a less strong message to Singaporeans of the power of whichever opposition party wins, and result in less ripples that will be created from this by-elections. Then the question is – do we want to give it to them? PAP knows that what happened in Hougang SMC can very likely happen at Punggol East SMC as well – they might get only 30+% of the votes and WP can possibly win more than 60% of the votes, and this will be a major embarrassment. Wanting more opposition parties to run is really to reduce the embarrassment at this point. To be clear, whatever I say won’t change the rate at which the votes will swing from PAP – this has and will happen. But how many votes the predominant opposition party – WP – can win really depends on the other opposition parties having the right frame of mind to think strategically for the political development of Singapore.
So, for this by-elections, we need to be really strategic on not allowing PAP’s wishes to come true – to reduce their face-loss, and to ensure that an opposition win big, so that this will create a massive wave change among Singaporeans in taking a hold and control over the future of Singapore, from the ripple effects that the win at this by-elections can set off.