Project Lucy

GE 2011: Winners and Losers

Posted in Uncategorized by Lucy on May 9, 2011

The Elections is over. The dust has settled. The victors and losers will say their piece. Normality and the hum-drum of the daily routine will kick in.

GE2011 marks a milestone for our country’s political history. The number of contested seats has given many Singaporeans the opportunity to cast their vote. They have had a choice. On the early hours of May 8, we got to know what kind of choice we made and one that would follow (or haunt) us for the next five years.

The winners:

The ruling party
Despite all that was said in the printed word, the number of votes the ruling party garnered can’t be considered a landslide. The 6% shift has been within expectations. However, the 81 seats that they hold in Parliament in any other part of the developing world would be considered “a landslide victory” or “a clear mandate”. They have won, but they can no longer ignore that 49% of the eligible voters. One thing for sure, whatever they had been doing for the past five years cannot be repeated. Surely the drastic drop in votes across almost all contested wards (notably Bishan-Toa Payoh and Marine Parade) would be a cause for concern.

However, one of the most significant events of the Elections was The Apology. Some have said that It might have given the ruling party a substantial amount of votes, perhaps among the silent and conservative majority. They have pledged to listen (again?) but surely time will provide the clearest of signs of how much things will change from now on.

The electorate, young, educated, informed and well-read, will be watching. Bulldoze the unpopular policies in Parliament at their peril.

The Hammer
Careful, calculated and considered, that can be said of their campaign and the rise to prominence. In 1991, there were suggestions that they were on the wane and that the Democrats (who won three seats) were the rising force in politics. Until 2011, Cheng San was their closest chance of scoring a historic first for the Opposition in Singapore.

Yet, in 1991, the entry of a young (then) man would change all of that. He first made in-roads among the Teochew community in Hougang. His tireless efforts in walking the ground (including the stories of how he would visit every funeral within the constituency) meant that he was literally walking the talk. Not many would have thought about his eventual win (as opposed to the gains made by the SDP). If JBJ’s (the secretary-general of the Party then) style was one of fire and brimstone, Mr Low Thia Kiang complemented him with his calm and collected manner in his political work. Yet, it is precisely this that allowed him to win the hearts of those in Hougang and now Aljunied.

It will be hard to doubt his efforts in transforming the Party after his own image. The rhetoric of the Party’s rally speeches was careful in spelling out their intent and not descending into name-calling (or responding to “gutter” politicking). Their rebuttals focused solely on the issues and clearly they have done their homework. Never was there once when they gave the electorate the slightest of hints that they were disorganised or did not know what they intended to do.

Mr Low’s move to contest in Aljunied was a calculated one. He had a clear succession plan in place, which meant that Hougang would still be in relatively “safe hands”, before moving into the bigger constituency. He placed a strong team – which included Ms Sylvia Lim – during the previous election and they began their work five years ago. Aljunied was also the GRC closest to Hougang, which might have made it a logical choice as the next GRC the Workers Party should focus on. The percentage of votes they got in 2006 might also have given them some confidence in turning things around in 2011.

While walking and working the ground was an important aspect of any election strategy, the improved image of the Party went a long way in attracting good candidates. Getting Mr Chen Show Mao and Pritam Singh as part of the team contesting in Aljunied was a masterstroke. It would be hard to argue against their qualities as politicians even if they were candidates of the ruling party. The response to their rally speeches was an indication of how they were able to connect with the people. Unlike some of the speeches of the other parties, they didn’t sound like insurance agents or salesmen.

They will have their work cut out for them in managing Aljunied for the next five years. Their victory has given the rest of Singapore a chance to see how they, as an Opposition Party, will fare and their work in improving the lives of the residents there. Obviously the margins for error will be slim but there should be some confidence of how, with his record and work in Hougang, Mr Low should be able to put things right.

Considered would be apt in describing their political strategy for the future. An indication of the Party’s future plans would be to cast your eye on the other GRCs they have contested during this GE. East Coast GRC could be their next target.

As a Party, they were not tainted with defections or any hint of infighting. Their brand and the unity they have went down well with the electorate. They present a viable alternative avenue for other talented Singaporeans seeking political office to serve the people. Only a disaster of gargantuan proportions would stunt their growth and the Party’s rebirth in Singaporean politics. Their “build”, “consolidate” and “expand” strategy could be a model that other opposition parties should follow.

Young Singaporeans
There was no Internet in 1991. There was not even a Speakers’ Corner then. Social media was unheard of. Technology has surely given young Singaporeans an open channel for their voice and to share ideas. Also, with the amount of information being fed to them through the twitter feed, facebook updates and online forums, their powers of discernment can only grow. This will be the making of an informed electorate in time to come. That is if one were to compare the paucity of avenues one had back in 1991 when The Straits Times forum was the only legitimate place to voice out on policy or societal issues.

Amy Khor
The top scorer for the ruling Party.

Kate Spade
The adage about how bad publicity is still publicity? Almost everyone in Singapore now knows the brand, especially when people were chanting the name during rallies.

The other “Kate Spade”
She has waltzed her way into Parliament. Macpherson would surely be a sterling test for this newbie politician.

Nicole Seah
Her fiery maiden rally speech raised some eyebrows. Until then, much of the focus was on her other more scholarly teammates. Arguably she toned down for subsequent speeches. Less fiery but still resonated with the rally-goers. She rose into prominence, becoming the star and the “unofficial” best speaker of the NSP. Her youth has disproved the notion that the young of our nation is largely apathetic. She might be carrying the torch for the people of her generation. While Chen Show Mao mentioned about how there are not that many five years in a person’s life, Nicole (at 24) has time on her side. That is if she decides to remain in politics.

Pritam Singh and Chen Show Mao
Their qualities aside, their claim of their hard work in becoming debutant politicians is a strong moral one. It is something that Miss Kate Spade can never compare unless she takes the same route.

Sitoh Yi-pin
He is a winner at last after three tries. Winning the hearts of the people who voted for Mr Chiam for the past 27 years would be the next big challenge.

The newcomers to Tanjong Pagar and MM Lee
While the rest of their party comrades had to do all the campaigning and covering the x number of blocks in their constituencies, the 35-second mistake meant that they could relax during the nine harrowing days. Among them was one who might not have been an MP had it not for some last minute changes. Perhaps we can expect more “kee chius” remarks in Parliament.

For MM Lee, his legacy of being the undefeated politician remains intact.

Mr Chiam See Tong
No matter what happens now, his standing as an honourable man devoted to the love of his country (and countrymen) is indisputable. He might have thrown his last political dice and put up a good fight (44% is close), he has earned his right for a deserved rest.

The Returning Officer
Now a minor YouTube sensation.

Politics in Singapore
If GE2006 was a prelude, GE2011 represents the Great Awakening of politics in Singapore among the electorate. There has been a noticeable shift from the ‘name-calling’ and ‘gutter’ politics to one that focuses on the issues. The Cheng San GRC contest caused one candidate to become bankrupt while the other has been on the run since. This time round, there was just one (mild) comment made about the funds of a certain town council, which generated a robust, forceful but legitimate rebuttal. No one has been forced to go on the run or thrown into prison (yet).

With a better informed electorate, politics in Singapore is beginning to move out of puberty. Off comes her training bra.

The losing team from Aljunied
Perhaps a fulfilling career in the private sector awaits.

Losers

Desmond Lim
The only candidate to have lost his deposit. His heart might be in the right place and his wife might have made a courageous effort in speaking up for him, but politics in Singapore is rarely forgiving.

Kenneth J
Last minute resignations? Check. Lack of resources? Check. Inability to connect with the rally-goers or electorate? Perhaps. “Loan signing”? Check. Made a mistake while reciting the Pledge? Check. Clear British accent? Check. The Reform Party might be the legacy of his late father, but he cannot ride on the wings of all the work JBJ has done. His references to his late father during speeches might have been one too many (which may give people the impression that he is not his own man). While he does not display the fire and passion of his late father, he may need to take some pointers from the other opposition candidates on how they addressed the crowds during rallies. The ambition to form the Government one day may be an aspiration but the rhetoric should be better served if it was more down-to-earth.

SDP
The Party appears to have gone the opposite route of that of the Workers Party. Their greatest moment was when they had three Members of Parliament. That was when Mr Chiam was still their leader. Despite their rousing speeches and their ability to attract good candidates, the stigma of being an “aggressive” and “activist” political party remains. Their admission of how they did not get as many votes from the HDB estates was telling of how their campaign style (perhaps deemed too ang moh) needs a bit more tweaking. Perhaps it might be good to cast their eyes at the work the Workers Party has been doing quietly in the east and then build from there. Also, it might not be time to bandy the S$60 billion about too much.

49% of Potong Pasir
112 votes was the difference between the constituency still being an opposition stronghold and the real possibility now of it being absorbed into a GRC in 2016. The consolation would be how they have had the privilege of being served by Mr. Chiam for the past decades and stood their ground. Unfortunately for some, petitions don’t really have the political or legal force in changing the Elections results.

Democracy in Singapore
49% of the votes went to the Opposition but representation in Parliament is less than 7%. Can anyone, hand on heart, say this is what the people truly want?

The underprivileged (including the elderly)
This group of people has been mentioned a lot during rallies across the island. Many tears have been shed for them. Time and time again, we have been given the freedom of piecing together images of senior citizens rummaging through the trash bins for cans or reminded of the camps being set up at certain parks in Singapore.

There is only so much the six Opposition Members of Parliament can do for Singaporeans. After all, they only have six votes against the 81 whenever unpopular Bills are passed. Without a strong voice on their behalf, the burden of alleviating their plight will once again fall on the shoulders of charitable and welfare organisations. The hope remains for people to consider how these senior citizens were part of those who helped built our nation, not just a select group of people.

Media in Singapore
Many can point to the great strides they have taken since the 1970s – 1990s. Simply compare the amount of coverage and space given to the Opposition, one can form the argument that they have covered the Elections objectively. Quantity analysis for the win?

Then, why the complaints about how “bad” the coverage was on Mediacorp’s two channels during the results night? Why was there so much griping about the social media (i.e., Twitter and Facebook) became the source of news and latest developments? Both the coverage from the mainstream media and social media happened in real time, but the latter become the source from which people could check for the latest updates.

Then, there was the observation about the amount of time given to the PAP team at Aljunied saying their piece but Mr Chiam’s comments were cut off mid-way (before the ads came on) and Mr Low’s speech – underscoring an historic achievement for the Opposition – was truncated.

Yes, they can claim to have improved but it is still far from being objective and unbiased. For a start, is 60.4% a landslide victory?

National Solidarity Party
One can argue that they are in the same Workers Party mould. Yet, despite fielding the most number of candidates in 2011, they did not create history for their own party – winning a seat in Parliament. For this Elections, Mr Goh Meng Seng sold his flat and sadly, lost his brother.

What tilted the ground against their favour was the mass “defection” of former Reform Party candidates to NSP. Secondly, they did not have a clear manifesto or lay out any comprehensive plan on how they are to tackle the issues. Thirdly, as the Workers Party has proven, at least five years to work the ground is absolutely essential. The question remains about how much time their debutants spent in working the ground.

Unlike the SDP, the NSP does not carry any unwanted baggage or negative impressions among the electorate. It would be a pity for them to give up now because they have a good slate of candidates and all the more they should work the ground in preparation for 2016 or even 2021.

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3 Responses

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  1. […] belief and control – Musings From the Lion City: GE Winners & Losers (Part 2) – Project Lucy: GE 2011: Winners and Losers – Thetwophilo’s Blog: Singapore Parliamentary Maths 101 [Thanks yl] – Rachel Zeng: GE2011: […]

  2. Hard Truths said, on May 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    The real losers are Singaporeans and their children.
    The real losers are democracy, justice, fairness and equality.
    The real loser is the Future of Singapore.

  3. AJOHOR said, on May 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Please correct the states , it is 39% not 49%.
    It will be interesting to watch and the swing votes to see.


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