Friday, 11 September 2015

Post-elections talk.

This post is dedicated to my MPs, for their moral courage in speaking up
for Singaporeans who do not agree with the ruling party.
(Photo credit: The Heart Truths)

This is my personal analysis of why the PAP won. There are 3 main reasons:

Addressing the hot-button issues of the previous elections. As mentioned in my previous post under the "good stuff" heading, Khaw Boon Wan has done a decent job of coming up with more HDB projects. Cooling measures have also been implemented to avert the perils of an overheated property market. The Pioneer Generation card provides substantial subsidies. This was probably the only policy of theirs that wasn't a "tweak". Users could feel the impact of the healthcare bill cuts. Of course, certain non-standard drugs may not be covered, but I think it's already a major step for the PAP to concede this type of subsidies.

Opposition not yet up to the mark. The AHPETC saga has apparently gone on long enough for it to create a dent in people's trust of the WP. I hope the WP can learn from the whole experience. Unless PAP screws up majorly, Opposition members in Singapore will face an uphill task. They will always be subjected to the intense scrutiny of the PAP, and if they have any faults, these will be magnified 1000x via the PAP-controlled state media. I think the problems in AHPETC put a big enough question mark in the minds of the swing voters. If I may make a constructive suggestion to the WP: It is really a terrible mistake to combine the management of the finances of all the regions under your purview. I think you're just setting yourselves up for attacks by the ruling party. The accounts will be more manageable and any issues can be more easily flagged if you manage each TC separately. If the accounts are separate, no one will be able to accuse you of taking the earnings from one TC to "cover the gap" in another TC. I knew Fengshan was lost the minute Dennis Tan said in a rally, "If we win, we will combine East Coast GRC and Fengshan and run them TOGETHER!!!" Dude, that's not what people want to hear. 

Added to this was the perceived lack of credibility of parties like Singaporeans First (a name which brings to mind nothing positive - ultra-right-wing fascists, xenophobia, etc.) and the antics of Han Hui Hui, dragging along with her, the original Mr Return Our CPF, Roy Ngerng. I know she's a brave girl to take on the PAP, but she's not doing the Opposition any favours. Nevertheless, for all the ridicule of this troop of people as the "fringe" Opposition, I do welcome their participation in politics. They may not be the best people to represent you, but the causes that they are fighting for are causes that resonate with some Singaporeans young and old, and no one should be so arrogant as to disregard that fact.

PAP supporters harnessing technology to influence the public. I'm so amused by analysts and journalists who harp about the "silent majority" finally speaking up. Are they living in the 1980s or what? While it is true that in GE2011, the PAP had failed to establish a presence online, leaving the online sphere effectively dominated by anti-PAP voices, since around 2012, Facebook pages helmed by PAP supporters and ostensibly "neutral" pages offering "neutral" views that really supported the status quo have been popping up. Now I don't want to speculate to what extent the PAP itself had a hand in all these efforts, but the analyst claiming that PAP supporters are silent, should not have been hired to write that article because he's clearly lost touch with the Internet. Apart from Fabrications about the PAP on Facebook, there's also Fabrications led by Opposition Parties, various pro-PAP commenters who openly and often vehemently criticise Opposition parties and their candidates, and websites like Five Stars and a Moon with an overtly pro-status quo stance. These are by no means the only pages and websites. Pro-PAP individuals have also been posting lengthy notes on their personal pages opining on domestic issues. These notes are often set to public, so that they can be shared easily.

And very interestingly, there were Whatsapp messages during this GE, with a long list of leading questions to provoke readers into concluding that PAP had better candidates than the Opposition parties. So the next analyst to claim that the PAP is supported by a "silent majority", please go and do your research before writing.

The chain message on Whatsapp I received, that must have been started by a PAP supporter if not the PAP themselves to influence the voters.

Those are the 3 main reasons. And then you have the other reasons like the smear tactics. This year, however, they didn't have too many personal attacks. On the contrary, the attempted personal attacks they made may have worked against them. I believe many educators felt outraged when the newspapers published a "poison-pen letter" alleging Daniel Goh from WP of having an affair with his student without any proof. Educators do feel strongly about this, because in Singapore, they are vulnerable to complaint letters and emails that parents can "shoot straight to MOE" and the principal, and cc to Ministers, accusing them of various wrongful behaviours. Even if the allegations were unsubstantiated, they would still be called up to explain. Therefore, I would not be surprised if that attempted smear of Daniel Goh actually turned off some educators who might've voted PAP.

The election was of course planned to coincide with the year of SG50 celebrations. Some critics have blamed them for trying to get a "sympathy vote" from the passing of LKY. Well, this is true, but in politics, this is fair and square. In this case, they did not resort to any underhand tactics. Although some have suggested that the PAP won only because of this, I beg to differ. I do have many friends who attended the SG50 celebrations and mourned the passing of LKY, some PAP and some Opposition supporters. Over-emphasising the role of SG50 and LKY in PAP's victory assumes that these events are of little or no sentimental significance to Opposition voters which is not true. It gives the PAP too little credit for the changes it has made since GE2011.

It is also not unreasonable to guess that the influx of new citizens have been slowly but surely tilting the votes in PAP's favour. This is a dangerous thing to suggest, because if taken the wrong way, it could promote xenophobia. But I think that we need to have an honest look at the impact immigration has on voting patterns. This article from 2013 states that Singapore wants to give citizenship to 15000-25000 foreigners every year. Surely the majority of these citizens would feel obligated to vote for the government that brought them in. Going by the average in the article of 18,500 new citizens a year, there must be around a total of 92,500 new citizens between the two GEs who might have voted PAP out of gratitude.

However, this is most definitely NOT an important reason for the PAP's major victory last night. 92,500 is not a lot of people, considering that we have a voting population of 2.4 million citizens. Also, there is nothing to stop the Opposition parties from earning the votes of these citizens. If the Opposition had been more inclusive, they might still have voted for them. I strongly urge Singaporeans who support the Opposition not to go into a xenophobic craze. Yes, new citizens might have added to the swing of votes in PAP's favour but they are not able to decisively tilt the vote shares.


Lastly, my personal thoughts on the results. Yes, I was really bummed that the PAP got a greater vote share than GE2011. The results were so overwhelmingly positive for them that I think the PAP themselves were stunned too. And I agree, New Nation, it is downright freaky how so many people can turn up for Opposition rallies, complain plus plus about the PAP's policies, yet still vote for them by a landslide!

However, if we can go beyond our hopes and wishes, and read more about political changes overseas, we might find that a circumspect response to shifts of political power may actually be the best thing for a country. I could tell from Mr Low Thia Khiang's demeanour (as shown on TV) last night that he, too, was bummed by his party's inability to make further inroads into PAP territory. But I would like to reassure my MP and his party members that they have already done extremely well, given how the odds were stacked against them this year.

Although the Opposition parties lost to the PAP in almost all the constituencies that they contested, the experience of toughing it out in this snap election under trying circumstances is bound to make them stronger. In fact, this is already apparent in WP, which after GE2011 has managed to attract a number of new candidates with superb qualifications and, as the party emphasised repeatedly in their rallies, they are young. They come from a variety of backgrounds, some have made their mark despite trying life circumstances, and they seem to be more personable than the PAP politicians. I do not doubt that after this election, there will be more newcomers keen to join the other political parties as well.

It is true what the PAP has said. It's easy to make promises but governance, be it in terms of domestic or foreign policies, requires extensive knowledge, great mettle and skills that the Opposition have yet to master. When I read raving comments about how there's a "tidal wave of change", or "winds of change" blowing in the direction of the PAP wards, I get very skeptical. With great expectations, come great disappointment. It has apparently happened in the case of this self-proclaimed swing voter for the Opposition in GE2011 who is now supporting the PAP. And of course, history is replete with examples of heroic figures from elections, uprisings and revolutions who made a whole lot of promises but failed to deliver them. This is not me buying into PAP rhetoric. It is a fact. The PAP themselves, have also failed to deliver the "Swiss standard of living" that they have promised Singapore. They did deliver a high GDP, but the secured lives that the Swiss generally lead is nowhere in sight. Instead, we have gotten more stressed and more worried about retirement.

Therefore, going forward, I sincerely hope that Singaporeans can calm down... Stop thinking about the future envisioned by each political party as some sort of Promised Land or Paradise where all you need to do is to passively pick a side to be assured of a good future. That is just stupid, you know. None of the political parties has the solutions to all your problems. None of them can help you to fulfil your dreams. All they can do is tell you to ownself go and chase the rainbow.

Instead, get out of your passive-aggressive or fatalistic/resigned modes and start thinking about how you can contribute to make our country a better place, and be committed to your ideals. Don't go for a brief holiday in a troubled country whose history you don't even know, come back and start praising the status quo, then blame your lack of commitment to a vision on a political party. The political party didn't change. You did.

Recently, I met a taxi driver who appeared to be an Opposition supporter. When I asked him how he felt about the elections, he brought up the high number of immigrants. Then he said, "Hai ya, anyway, our generation is old already. Who to vote depends on what the young generation wants. Next time the government may even be made up of foreigners. Hais, but if they say that the foreigners are better than us, then let them govern us. I don't bother about this already. Our generation is old already. Leave it to the young people to decide."

Needless to say, I was horrified by the lack of confidence evident from his reply. Uncle, 可不可以有多一点志气? I wonder... is this just a trait of the older generation? Or do many young people in Singapore (obviously not the government scholars... I mean, the normal young people) feel this way as well? Now that the die is cast, I would like to see a more energised Singapore. You have made your choice and the majority has chosen the PAP, so don't go back to the same old shit of complaining about their policies on transport, foreigners, stressful education system, calling the TC when you see some dirt outside your door. Picking on things, and expecting the government of the day to solve all your problems. Please.

I am an Opposition supporter, but if the entire process of GE2015 has contributed to the awakening of our citizenry, if the choices we have made in this election have illuminated for us the path ahead, the Opposition losses would be worth it. Anyway, it is never a complete loss unless they are eliminated or banished forever overseas. I believe that the Oppo parties will be back with many more outstanding candidates, better ideas and improved strategies in the next GE, and that bodes well for democracy in Singapore. I don't want to sabo anyone so I won't mention names. I think some new members of the Opposition are excellent. I would prefer them to represent Singapore at an international meet with top world leaders to someone like... Teo Ser Luck! Teo Ser Luck! Teo Ser Luck! (Sorry, can't help saying his name three times.) The GRC system has indeed been an obstacle for the Opposition, but if they continue working at it, in the near future, they may have enough good men and women to form our next government after PAP, provided that these men and women are committed and not fair-weather party members. I admire WP leader Low Thia Khiang for his tenacity. And I believe GE2015 has been a setback for his political career in a very personal way but I hope that he will feel encouraged by the continued support he has in Hougang and Aljunied GRC to carry on. However, more than that, I hope he will be big-hearted enough also to take the initiative to mentor and provide opportunities to his successors, so that the party which was founded by the late David Marshall in 1957 can continue to push forward even without him at the helm.

I predict that the PAP will continue to remain mired in its top-down ways and have problems with party renewal. This guy says that the PAP has "genuinely changed". I think there are reformist tendencies, but wait you see lah.... In election-speak, it's too early to call. I haven't met any of the new PAP candidates except for Victor Lye, and although he was enthusiastic, he wasn't impressive. Are their other new candidates also of a similar "calibre", including those who are entering Parliament via the GRCs anchored by experienced Ministers? If so.... Good luck.

All in all, I'm quite pleased about the election results despite being initially gutted. And even more pleased when former NMP and Young PAP man Calvin Cheng told PAP supporters not to gloat, after which they proceeded to do more gloating. Haha, Mr Cheng, you also know your party's supporters very irritating, right? I think there is a deep fear even within the PAP that the different political leanings of Singaporeans will eventually split the country that LKY had so painstakingly built. Whether that happens, however, largely depends on how the PAP-dominated government behaves towards Singaporeans who disagree with them.

What a night.In terms of popular vote, it has been a landslide. In terms of seats, the PAP has clawed back 1 SMC and...
Posted by Calvin Cheng on Friday, September 11, 2015

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