Immediately after the results for GE2015 was announced, these three points came to mind.
GE2015 was called barely 2 months after Singstat completed the General Household Survey or the mid decade census in July. The survey results would normally be released in the first quarter in the year after the surveys are conducted (Feb-Mar 2016). Survey results would probably include sensitive data that Singaporeans are blind to… today PAP has won the 2015 GE
What happened? lots to say but 3 quick points to start,
1) WP late challenge to hint at a multiparty government; the INSURANCE
“Safeguards have to be built in when things are stable. It is too late to do anything when things go wrong,”
“New Zealand has a population similar in size, and it has challenges too, of being isolated in the South Pacific. Its parliament has members from a range of parties. Does anyone think of New Zealand as being unstable?”
2) Domestic welfare campaign of the opposition front
All opposition parties speak of the CPF issue, Foreign Manpower influx, Cost of living – these are issues that worry the lower average Singaporean on the street (consider today’s average and median household income, the average Singaporean may need subsidies and grants to be competitive but NOT for the purpose of being a welfare seeker).
The domestic welfare focus has marginalised a large segment of Singaporeans that are angry at the government but not angry enough to risk their investments depreciating.
3) Fencesitters (25-40%) 11th hour fears of a possibility of a FREAK ELECTION where the government may fall by a less than united Opposition front.
Fencesitters make late decision. They are less likely swayed by political ideology and more likely to be swayed by profit and gains. Discontentment may have brought individuals in this category of voters to the forefront of curiosity and was probably ready to give the other side a chance. However, realising late that there are many more individuals like themselves and should all honour their vote to the opposition, a truly freak result of a multi party government could have happened (at least mathematically).
In a freak case scenario favouring opposition parties assuming the trend of votes swinging towards the opposition since 2006 continues and brand names of super opposition parties (WP & SDP) would secure voters confidence; WP would have secured 28 seats, SDP 11 seats, SPP (Bishan Toa Payoh + Potong Pasir + Mounbatten) 7 Seats and NSP (Tampines) 5 seats amounting to 51 seats. PAP will still have most number of seats in Parliament with 38 seat yet will not be able to form a government. The current disunity of opposition parties and spread of ministerial quality talent would make a full opposition coalition impossible. The way out, multiparty government.
MULTI PARTY GOVERNMENT???
To fencesitters… the issue with a multi party government is… everything.
Fencesitters may have considered giving a chance for a stronger opposition presence, even cutting back PAP’s 2/3 majority but the formation of a multi party government made up of so many parties that are less than united??? From the image of an arrogant WP who are not willing to talk but expecting other parties to listen; to SDP’s fresh cult of personality; to the marriages of convenience of some smaller parties like SPP, RP and SDA; to runaway parties splintering away on their own like SGF and PPP, to the tripping and tumbling NSP… the signs were just not clear that a multi party government would work for GE2015…
At the 11th hour, fencesitters just couldn’t hold to risk the ‘freak election result’. At the ballot box, individual fencesitters leaned backwards toward safety, voted for the PAP and hoped that the next person would vote for the opposition party.
As the dust settles for GE2015… The results tells us that at the ballot booth… fear prevails. This time not fear of an authoritarian power rather the fear of an uncertain possibility of a freak result of an less than united opposition led coalition.
Especially the 30-35% fencesitters probably made up of the top 40% of higher net worth higher income voters where domestic issues raised by opposition front just do not resonate well with them… especially with the on goings in Malaysia, the gloomy outlook to the global economy, and the perceived possibility of sharp devaluation of property with a pro Singaporean social welfare policy stance by opposition front.
FEAR… For Every ACTION there is a REACTION…
However, after a week of playing and replaying the rally speeches, running through the sequence of events, speaking with a few of the opposition candidates and party leaders, I can only come to one conclusion; that there were two different games played in GE2015.
SECURE THE INCUMBENT
A preview of SDP’s post election rally, Dr Chee will be highlighting in SDP’s post elections forum to how present election system will serve to retain the incumbent. I will agree with this. However, it has to be noted that in the last Parliament, the elected incumbent wasn’t only the PAP. The 6 elected opposition MPs were also incumbent as they entered the GE2015.
Considering that PAP has placed its weakest ever assembled team in Aljuneid, it does seem to say that PAP was prepared to lose Aljuneid. WP’s refusal to cooperate with other opposition parties, booking 5GRCs and 5SMCs (bulldozing takeover of Marine Parade and Macpherson) yet without a visible A team in any of the 4 GRC minus Aljuneid seems to suggest that WP did not enter the GE with a tactical desire to win.
This tactical deficiency however was blinded contradictory narratives by LTK – 20 opposition MPs in Parliament for effective opposition – mentioned twice 1) before nomination day & 2) on second day of campaign. Sylvia highlighted in a ST interview before nomination day of WP not expanding in big bang way.
First three days of campaign was a nice ping pong exchange between PAP and WP in a seemingly sparring battle. Mid way through, WP played up emotions for voters to vote in all 28 WP candidates to parliament with Sylvia hinting WP as the alternative goverment in waiting, and used NZ parliament as example of multi party parliament, hinting also at the possibility of opposition success and perhaps a coalition. Png Eng Huat on the 7/8th day of campaign addressed the civil servants to vote against the PAP echoing the VOTE for CHANGE! Slogan of the informal alliance of smaller opposition parties (suggesting opposition unity) while Pritam challenge PAP MPs to leave their seats to WP to focus on their commercial businesses.
For a party barely ready to add another town council to their account and not looking at big bang expansion, their podium theatrics from AHPETC defense to an all out political offensive was designed to create a hyped up emotional punch that the government may change and WP would lead the opposition in a NZ style multi party parliament.
A GAME WELL PLAYED
This successfully spooked voters and while at WP’s Hougang and Aljuneid grounds, the WP sit confident with a calculated comfortable base support and weak opponents, swing voters are less challenged to not vote for the PAP, fence sitters in other constituencies, worried of a freak result settled their nerves by voting for the PAP. The ‘spook the voters’ theatrics starring PAP and WP with cameos by SDP, SGF, NSP, SPP, SDA, RP and PPP achieved the desired stasis. PAP gained the ‘mandate’ while WP cements their position as the only ‘credible’ and accepted brand of opposition in Singapore.
They retained the 6 elected seats and monopolise the 3 NCMP seats. Punggol East a loss? Maybe but an insignificant one as the ‘National Swing’ for the PAP would have soften the blow as WP prepares for next elections with fewer opposition opponents.
Opposition supporters in GE2015 was too naive and hopeful for an opposition unity. In reality, the PAP wasn’t the common enemy to every Opposition Party. The game was to maintain a canvass of white with a dash of blue was the final objective.
GE2015, WP kept all other opposition parties at length from the start and that is the way they like it in Parliament. After all, WP MPs sits in most parliamentary select committees, unlikely they would want it diluted.
Now, the question is, can SDP lead a third force in GE2020?