An international media interviewed me to ask me for my thoughts on the Singapore General Election 2015. Here are my comments.
The election results are a combination of how the PAP has played a strategy based on fear-based ideology, coupled with a stronger opposition which ironically turned people in the opposite direction.
The stronger opposition allowed the opposition to pit themselves against the ruling party as a credible alternative. Instead, the PAP adopted the counter-strategy to question the track record of the opposition. An opposition without the possibility of forming government could not persuade voters of a track record.
The more thorough and well thought out policies from the opposition, as much as they were proposed to help Singaporeans, was also weakened by the PAP’s rhetoric of higher taxes, even as much as the opposition outlined that current revenue and taxes would be sufficient for their proposed proposals.
As such, the PAP’s main line of campaigning, on the use of fear, effectively turned voter sentiment against the opposition, more than create support for the PAP.
From this, one can observe that a need to read voter sentiment is a crucial skill that opposition politicians have to develop, so that their campaign strategies can be more effectively framed and aligned with the voters.
For one, a voter population which have been influenced by ideas of stability and certain conservative values mean that the opposition has to learn to develop their policies and communicate these ideas to the voters along such lines.
Ironically, as much as the criticism has been heaped on the PAP for not being in touch with the ground, and which the PAP therefore explained that they would learn to communicate their policies better, the same learning can be applied for the opposition.
The key question for the opposition is how they can become more in touch with the broad spectrum of a middle ground which values stability and how policies which benefit the voters can be better explained to them.
For the opposition, it also means coordinating their strategies so that their strategies do not come into contradictions with one another. As much as the opposition parties see themselves as diverse, to the voter population, they look at the opposition as one commonality, against the PAP.
As such, it would require the opposition to coordinate their strategies and somewhat formulate a strategy that would be able to effectively counter the PAP’s rhetoric against them.
Also, it can also be observed that voters expect a certain quality and strength among the opposition, which therefore also mean the opposition would be required to consolidate, in the face of voter expectations.
It would require the opposition to fine tune their selection of their candidates. Instead of contesting all seats for the sake of doing so, parties would need to carefully consider whether they have the best candidates to do so, and if not, to streamline their resources accordingly. For the unique scenario that Singapore’s elections are framed, it is not to provide voters with a choice to vote, but to rather provide voters with a perceived credible slate so that voters will want to vote.
If this means not contesting all the seats so that there are higher chances to put in credible candidates, then this might be a more viable strategy.
However, this also depends on the opposition and their willingness to coordinate such a strategy, when other considerations come into play, such as party visibility and longevity.
For the sake of Singapore and the sustainability of the democratic system in Singapore, the opposition will be required to read voter sentiment more astutely and to strategise accordingly to first be able to place more opposition politicians in parliament, before plans for expansion are considered.
Strategic and quality placement of candidates would be more well-suited for Singapore’s politics, rather than an exertion of quantitative expansion which might be counterproductive.