Prior to the 2011 Presidential Elections, the last multi-corner electoral fight occurred took place in 2001 in the then Bukit Timah SMC. A 3-way contest saw the PAP eventually securing 77% of the valid votes, while independent Tan Kim Chuang lost his deposit with a ‘mere’ 4.92% of the votes.
Given that such multi-cornered fights work to the advantage of the PAP due to the splitting of opposition votes, alternative political parties such as the NSP and SingFirst have called for unity to avoid such scenarios. Working out a common ground, however, seems to demand a different level of commitment.
Brinkmanship occurred in the 2013 Punggol East by-election where the SDP had publicly offered the WP a deal: the SDP would send its elected MP to parliament as an alternative voice while the WP would manage the town council. In the absence of a reply, the SDP stood down altogether.
The SDP thus deserves some credit to its name even though it may seem to have acted conceitedly. Had it pushed ahead with its proposition, the opposition votes may very well have been split into those who preferred a more radical alternative in the form of SDP and a more moderate alternative in the form of the WP.
Reassuringly, the voters gave their support to the WP by an astounding margin causing both the RP and SDA to lose their deposit. Taken together with the Presidential elections 2 years earlier, the electorate has shown a new found maturity when it came to 3-cornered contests: only want alternative parties who act reasonably will secure votes.
Yet, it would seem that multi-cornered fights seem to have inevitably emerged again in a hotly contested atmosphere of increased resentment towards the PAP. The DPP, for example, have stood up to contest in the Mountbatten, Hong Kah North, Potong Pasir, Bishan-Toa Payoh and Tanjong Pagar constituencies.
As a likely scenario emerged, even netizens from the core opposition group have been quick to condemn the actions of the DPP with one saying on TRE: “Guaranteed to lose terok terok if you enter into a 3-cornered fight. Don’t tiew Lian ok”
Another said: “fly-by-night parties that ‘wake’ up during GEs gunning for multi-cornered fights better understand their own strength before they jump. Opposition supporters will vote for only credible and viable candidates, not the more vocal or those with dubious track record.”
Despite an absence from the electoral scene, this is not the first time the DPP has done so. In 1997, a 4-cornered fight in Chua Chu Kang SMC saw DPP’s Tan Soo Phuan lost their deposit with a mere 1.9% of the valid votes. This set a new record for the lowest share of popular votes until 2013 where SDA had less than 1% of the votes.
Will 2015 prove to be Déjà vu?