As Singaporeans approach the forthcoming election with a sense of anticipation and uncertainty, many could feel that it will be another watershed election – just like the one we had in GE 2011 when Workers’ Party won it’s first-ever GRC.
It’s also the first election when most of the seats are been contested less Tg Pagar GRC.
All bets are off if all or 90% of the seats will be contested this time round given the buoyant mood of the opposition.
Much has happened since GE 2011 – more people have populated our small island state, MRT break-down is the norm now and our citizens are getting more courageous at the way they oppose the government as they gathered by the thousands to protest against government’s policies.
News of how activists like Roy Ngerng and Amos Yee were taken down by the government and eventually triumped over the system sent a mood of optimism down the opposing camp.
We have never seen the incumbent so ill in confidence months before a general election.
Its also the first election since 1965 that Lee Kuan Yew is no longer around.
AGO audit result helps opposition
The recent AGO audit result also completely turned the table against the PAP given the merciless manner they have slaughtered the WP for it’s town council mismanagement.
By now, most people staying in Aljunied GRC would know that it is all but another great PAP’s fix to bring down the opposition or at least negate the grave progress of the number one opposition party.
There is a time when many people are worried that WP may not be able to retain Aljunied GRC as the onslaught was both damaging and convincing.
Even WP supporters I spoke to cast doubt on the party as they were mostly silent on numerous occasions when murderous accusations which looked rock-solid in evidence were hauled at the party from all corners.
By then, many have also forgotten about AIM and its $2 implication – which carried more slanderous implications due to its scope and hidden sinister agenda.
The AGO audit result came at an apt time when WP needs to break out of the 3-year long defensive mode to focus on carrying the opposition baton for the country.
PAP to lose more majority votes and some more seats?
Moreover, given the recent backlash resulted from the MRT train break-down and general discomfort with a mushrooming foreign population, the government should be expecting a reduction of majority votes to say 55 to 57% – a lessening of about 5 to 7% from GE 2011 of 60.1% majority votes attained.
This effectively means about 110,000 to 120,000 supporters have swing their votes to the opposition camp – which is a very conservative estimation given the general negative feeling one has for the incumbent.
However, this swing could be negated by about 150,000 loyal new citizens who know nothing else except PAP – its almost sure that 90% of their votes will go to the ruling party.
They represent about 5-7% of the total electorate as it is estimated that their latest voting strength should figure close to 150,000 voters.
Thus, it will be a tall order to see anything more than a 5% swing against the government who still have the benefit of boundary electoral changes up it’s sleeve.
It won’t be a surprise if there are massive boundary electoral changes once the committee is ready with it’s proposal.
Massive changes to boundaries?
In GE 2011, three new GRCs were formed – Moulmein-Kallang, Chua Chu Kang and Nee Soon GRC. Eight new SMCs were also formed with another four GRCs facing electoral changes.
It is anybody guess how the boundaries will be carved out this time round as the incumbent seems hesistant and ill in confidence.
Aljunied GRC might even be broken up and part of it absorbed by another pro-PAP GRC eg. Pasir Ris-Punggol or even break up into two smaller GRCs of 3 members each to disrupt the winning momentum of the opposition giant.
However, I believe that the PAP is resigned to losing Aljunied GRC, Hougang and Punggol East SMC but are trying it’s best to starve off another heavy GRC loss to it’s closest rival namely East Coast GRC – which lost by 10,000 votes only in GE 2011 winning 45% of total votes cast.
They are also looking cautiously at SDP which is gaining ground of late and their focus should be on Holland-Bukit Timah GRC which was contested by SDP’s A team of Dr Ang Yong Guan, Tan Jee Say, Michelle Lee and Vincent Rene Wijeysingha.
They lost by a massive 16,000 votes though.
Dr Chee Soon Juan has also came out of his bankruptcy’s charges and is gearing to contest in this coming election and looks all ready.
He has portrayed a softer image and his party has worked the ground since GE 2011 coming up with a few good proposals to counter the government.
But will he fare better in a GRC leading a A team or venture on his own in a SMC?
I am sure that Dr Chee will fare better in a single-seat constituency ticket and he deserves to be in Parliament given his long history as an underdog politician.
Singaporeans not ready for change of government?
Yet, given the major hiccups the incumbent have experienced since GE 2011, no one is convinced that the opposition can just take on this role after a general election.
If it happens, it will likely be a coalition government – provided a freak result happens and we see a unpredictable massive vote swing against the incumbent.
Even the Prime Minister admitted to this possibility in an interview last year with Financial Times “”You don’t have to be paranoid but you do have to take risks very seriously.”
However, Mr Lee later clarified on Facebook that a coalition government for Singapore was “not on his mind“
Currently, once the government holds 75% of the seats in Parliament (not majority votes), the party can bull-doze bills easily as most PAP MPs will have to vote for the bill due to the party whip.
Currently, only 7 MPs out of the 87 seats are occupied by the opposition camp.
Damaging bills such as the population white paper and ministerial salary raise were all easily passed through Parliament without even a whimper as they are simply too few opposition MPs to make enough noise or voted against it.
It will be critical for Singaporean’s sake to eradicate that 75% majority seats for the ruling party so that bills can be properly debated and voted upon.
Coalition or two-party government?
The forming of a coaliton government ( the full interview with FT) mentioned by our PM last year looks more possible than an outright replacement of the current regime given the structure of our politics and constitution.
Even though the government is highly unpopular going by street talk, people still vote for them due to various reasons.
However, the slow but steady decrease in majority votes for the past three general elections will certainly eat into the number of Parliamentary seats the incumbent could hold in future elections – you won’t see your majority votes dipping without an eventual decrease in your Parliamentary seats.
“It may not be one team in, one team out, it may be more complicated – you’re getting used to more complicated than that in Britain now.” Mr Lee told the journalist in an interview with FT citing the formation of a coalition government in future.
A coalition government is formed when no single party is strong enough to command a decisive majority which also often result in a hung Parliament.
That interview with Financial Times is probably the only time that PM Lee spoke widely on the possibility of forming a coalition government. He later refuted the idea of a coalition government when he was interviewed on the same subject by the local press.
He also didn’t speak on that topic ever again.
Many western democracies enjoyed the democracy of a coalition government even though it has paralysed some countries with its complication.
For example, Denmark has a hung Parliament recently after a general election and it takes them months before the government could function properly again as no party has enough majority seats to form a proper government.
Denmark has a multi-party system, with two strong parties, and four or five other significant parties. No single party has held an absolute majority in the Folketing since the beginning of the 20th century, and no single party has formed a government alone since 1982 (source: Wikipedia).
Two-party political system more probable?
One can imagine PAP going round courting smaller parties who have won Parliamentary seats to form the next government but maybe we should envisage a two-party system instead which is more probable here?
Let us presume that WP wins two more GRCs of 5 members each and their Parliamentary presence could increase by up to 17 seats out of a possible 87 total seats – provided they win all the former seats back.
Let’s also optimistically predict that SDP will win one GRC of 5 seats each and we will then have a dominant two-party system fringed by another new smaller entry.
That I believe is a better and more convincing political system with proper checks and balances – something many believe is very lacking now.
Many people are sceptical of a two-party political system as some have accused WP of keeping too quiet after winning a GRC.
A 3-party Parliamentary presence seems a popular choice as if one opposition party stays quiet for various reasons, the other party can pick up the tab. It will also ensured that Parliamentary debate is lively and combative.
A 6% swing against PAP in GE 2011 representing almost 110,000 voters went to show how unhappy the population has been with the current regime.
It will be foolhardy to believe that the swing vote margin for GE 2015/6 is anything less i.e. after absorbing in all the loyal new citizen votes.
If not for the loyal new-citizen votes, the carnage will be even more devastating but like it or not, most Singaporeans will not want to see the ruling party going out of power – at least not for this general election.
Most will be happy that the opposition gain more ground by winning at least one more GRC – preferably won by another opposition party.
The shock-waves will be felt if more than one additional GRC is lost in the coming general election but all signs point to a wane in political power of the ruling party as the population is tired of one -party dominance.
Written by: Gilbert Goh