Will the morning after see 86:1?

In the 2006 general election, the People’s Action Party (PAP) held 82 out of 84 seats even though they got 66.6 percent of total votes cast. This disproportionate result arises from the  demographic homogeneity of electoral divisions, the result of a tight urban environment built up with cookie-cutter flats and further evened with ethnic housing quotas. Nowhere are minority interests and minority political opinions concentrated. So long as a party enjoys a comfortable margin of majority support overall, its candidates will coast to victory virtually everywhere.

This logic remains unchanged for the upcoming election.

After the recent redrawing of electoral boundaries, there will be 87 elected seats in the next parliament. Hougang and Potong Pasir, the single-member constituencies (SMC) that withstood the PAP juggernaut in 2006, remain intact. Will they return opposition members to the next parliament? Will other places turn their backs on the PAP and vote in opposition members for a change? Will a group representation constituency (GRC) fall to the opposition for the first time ever?

In every election cycle, it is at about this stage that pro-opposition optimism starts to climb. It reaches delusionary heights during the campaign itself and almost always comes down to earth with a crash the morning after polling day. Will the coming crash take the form of 86:1?

* * * * *

In 2008, I reviewed the vote shares from four elections (1991, 1997, 2001 and 2006) for the article The mathematics of elections 2. I have now refined the data a little more to give you two important numbers:

1.  The standard deviation for PAP vote-share in GRCs through those four elections was 6.3 percentage points.

2. The standard deviation for PAP vote-share in SMCs was 13.2 percentage points.

For the layman, let me explain the significance of the standard deviation. In normal distribution, about two-thirds of data points in any set of data points will fall within the standard deviation. 95 percent will fall within 2 x standard deviation. It is not a hard and fast rule, there are ifs and buts, with the biggest reservation being whether election results naturally take the shape of normal distribution. However, for the purpose of this post and in the absence of any other model, we can use it as a working rule of thumb.

What it means for the upcoming election, in which we have fifteen GRCs, is this: Assuming all fifteen are contested, then about ten of them will likely yield results within plus or minus 6.3 percentage points of the mean PAP vote-share country-wide.

In about two or three GRCs, the PAP vote share will be more than six percentage points below the national mean. In other words, opposition victories in two or three GRCs become good possibilities should the overall PAP vote share fall to 56 percent (because 56 – 6 = 50%)

How likely is that? Well, I’m no pundit, but I did take a straw poll among several friends (I took the trouble to avoid asking those who were starry-eyed about the angelic qualities of opposition parties and their manifest destiny) which produced a consensus that the PAP’s vote share was more likely than not to stay above 60 percent. If they are right, we could well wake up after polling day to learn that once again, the PAP retained all GRCs.

For SMCs, the standard deviation is 13.2 percentage points. In the coming election, there are 12 SMCs, and almost surely, all of them will be contested. Two-thirds of them (i.e. eight) will likely yield results within 1 x standard deviation. I’d guess that two SMCs will see the PAP doing worse than mean minus 13.2 percent, and two SMCs will see the PAP doing better than mean plus 13.2 percent.

So, if the PAP vote share overall (i.e. the mean) is somewhere between 62 – 65 percent, perhaps two (perhaps one, perhaps three) SMCs will go to the opposition.  If the PAP’s overall vote share hovers at or slightly below 60 percent, perhaps four SMCs will go over.

And that was what happened in 1991. That year, the overall PAP vote share was 61 percent. That year too, four SMCs fell to the opposition.

* * * * *

But these are very rough numbers from technical charting. It does not take into account local and personality factors.

I think most people will expect Low Thia Khiang, leader of the Workers’ Party, to defend his Hougang seat and to retain it. His support in the last election was a solid 62.74 percent.

It’s a lot more iffy in the case of Potong Pasir. Current member of parliament for this constituency, Chiam See Tong, has announced that he will not be defending this seat; instead his wife Lina Chiam will be standing for election there. In 2006, Chiam held the seat with 55.82 percent of the vote. Will all of these voters loyally give their vote to Lina Chiam this time around?

Somehow, I don’t think so. I think at least a small number will say: All right, I’ve supported Chiam long enough, at some cost to myself — delayed upgrading and all — and it’s time to look after my own selfish interests now that he’s retiring from my ward. All it takes is for one in eight of Chiam’s 2006 supporters to think this way and Lina Chiam will fail to win Potong Pasir, getting only 48.8 percent. If less than one in eight defect, she’ll squeak through.

I’m not a pundit. I’m not making any prediction for Potong Pasir or any other constituency for that matter. I only aim to point out certain realities to better temper wild optimism.

As for other SMCs, it’s too early to make any assessment. We don’t even know who is standing where.

* * * * *

The bottom line is this. Unless overall PAP vote share falls to 60 percent or less, we cannot expect significant opposition gains, least of all in GRCs. If you are like my straw poll friends and do not think such a large shift is likely, then I’d say keep the possibility firmly in mind — that you get out of bed after polling day to find headlines that say 86:1.

32 Responses to “Will the morning after see 86:1?”


  1. 1 sindhura@pacific.net.sg 5 March 2011 at 23:33

    I too tend to think that the result would be 86:1 with WP’s Low retaining Hougang. Potong Pasir is a lost cause for the Opposition and even if Chiam were to stand there he will lose. He knows that and he thinks by contesting in a GRC and getting beaten, he can leave the political scene as a beaten hero.

    There will be more people voting against PAP this time for sure, perhaps reducing its share to even less than 60% but it may not change the predicted outcome.

  2. 2 charlie 6 March 2011 at 03:46

    If you believe that the PAP’s share of the overall vote will fall to about 60 per cent, then based on the above analysis, it is likely that the non-PAP candidates may win 1 to 3 seats and possibly one GRC. Personally, although I have been a non-resident for so long, and accordingly, has no vested interest in the outcome, I hope that the voters will choose to elect more than 2 MP’s who are not from the PAP.

  3. 3 Tan Ah Kow 6 March 2011 at 06:49

    Yes very likely scenarios.

    Many pundits point to hot button issues and more media outlet albeit non broadcast ones as evidence of momentum for change.

    Few realise that whilst such hot button issues are impacting society the impact are felt differently. Some suffer from it some neither suffer nor profit and rest profit from it.

    Mix in the boundary changes, situation may be more status quo then pundit would like it to be.

  4. 4 Yamasam 6 March 2011 at 09:54

    I will not be surprised if it is 86:1. Disappointment will be an understatement though.

    Despite all the unhappiness on the ground, it is unlikely it will translate into a vote swing large enough to unseat the PAP in most GRCs and SMCs. My gut feel is that this unhappiness will only result in a 6-8% swing.

    The last election in 2006, PAP garnered 66.6% of the votes nationally. With a potential swing of about 6-8%, they still have a buffer of 8-10%.

    The redrawing of electoral boundaries has ensured that all its current seats have the necessary buffer to withstand this potential vote swing of 6-8%.

    Aljunied GRC is a prime example, where blocks of precincts are moved in/out to beef up that buffer.

    All the opposition prties will have to strategise carefully where they wanna to place their best candidates to give themselves a chance for a further 10% swing.

    Personally, I would like LTK to vacate Hougang and lead a team to contest a GRC, and Sylvia to lead another team in another GRC.

    CST is already leading a team in Bishan-Toa Payoh. KJ should also contest in a GRC instead of a SMC.

    I am suggesting that key candidates contest in GRCs instead of SMCs because the chances of multi-cornered fight is higher for SMCs which will dilute the votes for the opposiion candidates. Raise the stakes and let Singaporeans decide.

    • 5 Christopher 6 March 2011 at 17:14

      It will be interesting to see if Mr Chiam’s strategy to return to Parliament with 2 other opposition candidates will work. His move is a gamble – with the opposition held seat in Potong Pasir that he is leaving to his wife to hold down the fort. In my personal opinion, it could very well be an all or nothing outcome (1 SMC and 1 GRC for Chiam’s SPP, or no seats at all); leading to the 86:1 prediction.

      The truth is that voters may very well be more comfortable with voting into Parliament a single opposition candidate than to vote in a group of 3 or more of them in a single election. The quality and calibre of our opposition candidates are not uniform. There are opposition political heavyweights such as Mr Low and Mr Chiam, perhaps even Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr K. Jayaretnam. Yet how many more of them do we need to fill a substantial number of seats in Parliament before a real opposition presence is felt?

      So perhaps the transition to that may instead see these heavyweights placed into Parliament first, and other worthy candidates would emerge to follow in their footsteps and maybe someday form a strong team to contest a GRC.

      With all that in mind, it may be wiser political strategy for the heavyweights (for the lack of a better term) to stand in SMCs for their own seat. The electoral system of GRCs puts more at stake and more to lose for these individuals. And hence it seems Mr Chiam is one who is willing to take up the challenge for this election.

    • 6 Anonymous 17 March 2011 at 23:55

      Hi the article and stats were fantastic except for 2001. That year was a flight to safety, an outlier. The numbers would skew quite badly i think.

  5. 7 anony 6 March 2011 at 10:42

    Agree with you on Potong Pasir. I had the same thinking on the very day that Chiam announced more than a year ago that he was interested in contesting Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

    I will go out to say its a sure bet that Potong Pasir will finally fall into PAP hands after so long. Supporting for Chiam See Tong is different from supporting for Lina Chiam. Its the person that counts.

    Reform Party has lately been crowing on its Facebook page that more than 50% of voters in the GRCs & SMCs it has been actively doing walkabouts are ready to give their votes to them. I nearly choked on my morning tea when I read that. Reform Party needs a reality check!

    Cue Low Thia Kiang of Workers Party who knows the nitty gritty of convincing voters to vote for the alternative parties, Low has said that it will take at least 3 elections or more before you see any fruition if you are newbie on the block. So Sylvia Lim & her team in Aljunied GRC will be going for their 2nd try this year & are prepared to fail again based on Low’s forecast. Low Thia Kiang is a very shrewd politician, there is a reason why he is saying what he is saying, do not underestimate him.

    So Kenneth Jeya should examine the wisdom of Low Thia Kiangs words & its implications. Better set realistic expectations than fall down hard.

  6. 8 auntielucia 6 March 2011 at 11:09

    Think yr 86-1 scenario has a better than 90% chance of coming true, if all seats contested. Still there will b more Opp voice in Parliament via NCMP, no?

  7. 9 cy 6 March 2011 at 12:36

    since your sample size for GRC is less than 30,only 21 results, shouldn’t you consider using t-distribution which is for small sample size.

    the tails will be larger for t-distribution

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student%27s_t-distribution

  8. 10 Gard 6 March 2011 at 14:19

    Since you have the statistics at hand, could you see if the dataset in the prior to 2006 is able to reasonably give an accurate ‘prediction’ of outcome in 2006? It is to test that the characteristics of the population is still valid.

    I faintly recall that that the win percentage in Ang Mo Kio by PM Lee against the WP unknowns is not ‘statistically expected.’ In some way, this is not surprising since voters who were not eligible to vote in 1990s have entered the scenery in 2006.

    There was nothing to explain or predict how an unknown black man could have trumped over Hillary Clinton and John McCain. But it happened. In hindsight, it was the statistics of ‘missing statistics.’

  9. 11 Christopher 6 March 2011 at 16:55

    If this scenario predicted above comes true, then it should be interesting to consider the 9 promised NCMP seats and see who will be filling them. At the very least, I personally hope, these NCMP seats will be filled with the deserving candidates that have garnered support through their own credibility and capability.

    As it has been observed in YB’s post, support for Opposition almost always warms up during the pre-election period, notably with the mass turnout at opposition rallies. However the day after Polling Day sees a huge disappointment for the opposition. This was at least observed in 2006.

    I wonder what it is about Singaporeans that render them so politically apathetic apart from this pre-election period every 4 or 5 years. Hardly any attention is paid to the opposition during the non-election years. With such a cyclical attention given to them, it is hardly difficult to understand why a firm grasp on electorate support has yet to be established.

    I am in no doubt that opposition leaders and party members do their walkabouts routinely to understand community sentiment on the ground. Though they have been largely missing from my ward, since I reside in one of the 3 chilli crab conglomerates in our nation.

    The point I am trying to put across is this: the opposition have been employing the same strategies and tactics for a long time (establishing grassroots support, etc etc). Granted, they are faced with an asymmetrical playing field; but perhaps it is time to do more? The status quo of their efforts would be the status quo of the election results since 1991 till 2006.

    Lately they have moved to throw light on many bread-and-butter issues of rising living costs, increased foreigners and so on and so forth. Perhaps it would do much to their cause if they could work on swinging the politically apathetic in Singapore to become more empathetic. Their voice will only be loud if there are people out there who are listening.

    The dynamics of media in Singapore has largely evolved. In 2006, social and new media played a much lesser role in spreading voices and much of the local news was still channeled through mainstream press. With the emerging dichotomy between new and old media, the opposition should do well for themselves to position their voice where it can be heard. Likewise, new media empathetic to the opposition cause should work to establish themselves as credible sources of news and information and stay within the boundaries of appropriate content.

    In my opinion, unless more is done, the status quo of a PAP majority in Parliament would not change any time soon. And we should all be prepared to accept that.

  10. 12 anon 6 March 2011 at 18:53

    Alex,
    Do you have anything that measures people’s mood change.

    While I would not go into the number of wards either side will win, I do feel that the proportion of votes against the ruling party would rise by at least 5%-10%. Whether this would translate into x number of seats, who knows?

    • 13 Anecdote 7 March 2011 at 00:42

      I thought about the aspects of daily life in Singapore to find some plausible causes that would make a Singaporean wonder a little more about the future of the country. Even if he/she couldn’t care two hoots about politics.

      I thought of the MRT. During peak hours.

      http://www.smrt.com.sg/investors/key_operating_matrix_MRT.asp

      One of the notable features that can be seen from the above information is that there has been a significant rise in MRT ridership in the last few years. This has been attributed to the the opening and operation of the Circle Line. There has also been the extension of the East-West line at the western end.

      The annual MRT ridership figures from 2003 to 2010 are as follows.

      2003: 388432614
      2004: 402265250
      2005: 410682062
      2006: 428727358
      2007: 457418817
      2008: 506778055
      2009: 524959766
      2010: 587731687
      (From May 2009, ridership includes that from the Circle Line)

      The ridership has gone up by 51% from 2003 to 2010. Or 37% from 2006 to 2010.
      In comparison, the national population has gone up by 23% from 4.11 mil in 2003 to 5.07 mil in 2010.
      http://www.singstat.gov.sg/stats/themes/people/hist/popn.html

      Clearly, this means that MRT ridership growth overtakes population growth. Although ridership numbers do include a significant proportion of “repeat-riders”, the infrastructure does not seem to be in a healthy state. Neither do the people, especially since they use it everyday.

      My suggestion is that even if Singaporeans do not speak up a lot, do not participate in online media as much as in traditional ones and quietly go about their lives as usual, they might just be starting to think a little bit more of a world outside and beyond the PAP.

      This may even include new residents who are of the working class and who frequent the MRT.

      The long term picture could be this. As the population grows, MRT ridership numbers will increase in tandem. In the meantime, new MRT lines will be constructed and old ones will be extended. But during the interim where the population increases while new MRT infrastructure construction is still in the making, will there be a infrastructure crunch that even Singaporeans cannot endure?

      Perhaps not in this GE but at the next. However, the prospects and signs of such a crunch are already there. And this GE might take on a different meaning for some ordinary Singaporeans as compared to back in 2006.

      • 14 Gard 7 March 2011 at 12:56

        “Why do we need opposition anyway if characters like Sylvia Lim can join PAP to offer constructive feedback from within? You can be pro-Singapore being in PAP.”

        “What do you actually hope the opposition to actually do that PAP cannot?”

        The answers to these two questions – are they different back in the 1990s and today?

        “People think that only by seeing, then they will understand. But isn’t it also true: once you understand, you see.”

      • 15 Christopher 8 March 2011 at 13:55

        Although I do not fully understand your statistical analysis, your analogy of how infrastructure development is hardly keeping pace with population growth (despite falling birth rates) is a sound and thought-provoking one.

        For one, let me say that the current government is not without the want of trying. Without concrete statistical analysis, let me just say that based on a daily observation of Singapore, it would be hard to find an area without some form of construction or redevelopment being carried out. Such is the rapid pace of development right now.

        From an economics perspective, infrastructure development to increase supply of goods and services in the long run has a time-lag component to it. This idea would apply to the above analysis. It would thus be prudent to ensure that growth is always in tandem with supply, to prevent an overheating economy.

        And yet, our economy is already showing signs of overheating. Real wages are falling and inflation is on the rise. Housing speculation was a major concern last year, even to the extent for the abolition of estate duty (i.e. death tax), another highly regressive move in terms of equity. So that wealth would not be parked in property, contributing to the bubble.

        I suppose if the mathematics analysis were applied to more areas of our livelihood indicators, in areas such as road use (measured in increasing ERP), housing costs etc, you would find similar trends to show how the economy is showing signs of overheating.

        “Growth at all costs” is easy to quote but the impact of the phrase might not extent beyond having to compete with foreigners for employment with the layman. Delving into statistical evidence and highlighting specific areas of concern would do more to jerk the population about thinking about their future here in this nation.

  11. 16 hahaha 7 March 2011 at 11:18

    Agree that the support for PAP will be eroded but they will remain in power with a ~60% mandate.
    Aljunied GRC will be the key battle for increased opposition MPs.
    I like George Yeo, but he’s serving the wrong master.

  12. 17 Devil's Advocate 7 March 2011 at 15:03

    Pundits have been predicting 6-10% swing against PAP even without all seats contested. Now that every single seat is going to be contested, won’t LKY and GCT be busier fighting their own battles on their home turf rather than acting as cheerleader? This is a huge factor that you’ve left out. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we see a bigger than 10% swing. Hopefully the more targets the opposition aims for, the more they’ll hit.

  13. 18 Cynical Investor 7 March 2011 at 16:55

    Ya my fear too.

    But in 2006, tot Chiam would lose. And woke up and found he had won and WP nearly beat GY and team. It waz Malays that saved PAP. And what happenened, they got kicked in the balls.

    Can only hope that once in century storm happens.

  14. 19 Agagooga 7 March 2011 at 22:22

    You are assuming that constituency vote shares are normally distributed.

    Yet elections occur in too diverse circumstances, and constituencies are too diverse, to assume that the results will be normally disribured. Your sample is not independent and identically distributed.

  15. 20 patriot 8 March 2011 at 00:39

    Whilst me concurs that the PAP winning as before and me maintains that fear will remain as the reason, me hopes that political events, especially uprisings in other countries, could result in Singaporeans looking to a peaceful freak election result. Let the World sees that we can have political change, no matter how small, without violence.

    WP, especially Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim are possible winners, however, though Chiam See Tong has done fine as a member of parliament, he however does not prepared his party well. And with his physical condition, if his term ends, it would not be surprising. As he has not groom any outstanding candidate, his party may not get much support this coming election.

    Singaporeans could test out some of the Opposition Members such as NSP Goh Meng Seng, WP Sylvia Lim and some of their team members performances by voting them into parliament. Voters have nothing to lose, if more oppositions are elected, the voices of the people are likely to receive more attention and not said but unheard by those that treat voices of the people as noises from the dafts.

    Me wishes voters will take actions to do the change instead of just making lots of complaints at the Incumbents and demanding the Opposition Members to do the impossible without giving them the supports.

    patriot

  16. 21 Breakdance 8 March 2011 at 03:39

    Dear Cynical Investor,

    Actually the vote for the WP GRC team in Aljunied dropped in relation to the votes won by their previous GRC teams in 2 previous elections at Eunos and Cheng San. Aljunied will go to ruling party again unless LTK heads the GRC team.

    I do not detect a swing against the ruling party on the ground. I could be wrong but I’m a afraid that the 86:1 result is a real possibility.

    • 22 Christopher 8 March 2011 at 13:46

      I cannot help but be bewildered at the sentiment that opposition leader Mr Low should abandon his currently held seat in Hougang SMC to lead a GRC.

      People vote for the representative or team of representatives that best represents them. Mr Low has been given the mandate of Hougang residents to represent them in Parliament, and this does not necessarily translate into similar support to be received in Aljunied or any other GRC/SMC. In my opinion, an election strategy like the one stated above would mean Mr Low leaving behind the grassroots and community support he has received in Hougang over the years.

      I can understand that the above scenario would highly parallel Mr Chiam’s strategy and this is in no way meant to be a criticism of him leaving his Potong Pasir ward. One must understand that the circumstances faced by the two leaders are not the same.

      With all due respect, I fail to see the sense in saying, “unless so-and-so is leading this team here, they will not win”. Similarly, there is no guaranteed win for Mr Chiam in his upcoming contest in Bishan-Toa Payoh. His chances of contesting in a GRC are perhaps best boosted by his years of experience as an MP and his personal credibility with the people. I can only imagine the further disappointment of WP candidates in Aljunied GRC who have been preparing for this election over the past few years as all their work would be nullified if such false prophecies are being made every now and then.

      Forgive me for ranting, and this is not directed personally at anyone, but it is time to take a less simplified view of Singapore politics if we really hope to see reform in the system.

  17. 23 Breakdance 9 March 2011 at 03:40

    Dear Christopher,

    If LTK seems himself only as representative of a constituency then he should stay in Hougang.

    If he however sees himself as a NATIONAL leader of party who is out to lead change in Singapore then he has to step out of his comfort zone and LEAD his party and compete at Aljunied. A win at Aljunied will give him and his party a strong alternative voice in parliament. There is a degree of risk in this move but he may need to do this if he wants the general electorate to view him as a viable NATIONAL LEADER. A lot would depend on whats in his heart.

    I dont know where LTK sees himself in the scheme of things. He does not strike me as a national leader or perhaps he is waiting for a favorable set of circumstances before leading a GRC team.

    • 24 Christopher 10 March 2011 at 15:15

      Hi Breakdance

      I can see that we both agree in principle regarding how MPs are elected by their constituencies for proportionate and direct representation in Parliament.

      Your suggestion that Mr Low should stake his odds and lead a GRC contest to gain his party more seats in Parliament for a stronger alternative voice is not an idea that is lost on me.

      I am, however, unsure about your claim that, “he may need to do this if he wants the general electorate to view him as a viable NATIONAL LEADER”. Perhaps you could elaborate on how stepping forward in a GRC would position him in the light of a “national leader”? I am also afraid I do not quite get what you mean by “national leader”.

      As the party leader and Secretary-General of the Worker’s Party, arguably one of the most active opposition parties in Singapore, I would venture to say that regardless of sitting in an SMC seat or a GRC seat, Mr Low would be considered by many to be a leader in his own right. In his capacity as an elected MP, he may not be directly upfront in leading our nation but his role is nonetheless an important one as an opposition MP.

      If you mean to suggest that he should expand on this role by leading a GRC team and in so, bring more of his party members to Parliament, then we have our discourse as stated above. When you say that Mr Low “does not strike me as a national leader or perhaps he is waiting for a favorable set of circumstances before leading a GRC team”, then I would have to say at with his current circumstances, your latter statement would probably be true. Still, what you are trying to say hinges on what you mean by “a national leader” in the context for our oppposition MPs.

      I would be glad if you would clarify. Though at the very least, I can see a growing number of Singaporeans who are more interested toward having a more proportionate representation in Parliament for the opposition, and I certainly hope that this election might be otherwise from the 86:1 ratio as suggested above.

  18. 25 patriot 9 March 2011 at 11:55

    Me shares Breakdance view in whole.

    Low Thia Khiang was at one time planning big and aimed to be the biggest opposition party in Singapore. However, he does not seem to grow his party the way he had said despite having a capable adjutant in Sylvia Lim.

    Since the Last Election(2006), WP appeared to have shrunk in its’ activities and stature contrary to opinion that It could become the most potent opposition, alas it was not to be.

    There is the danger that if WP chooses to play a sub-camarilla role in the national politics, it may loses much of the support It is having now.

    WP need not be reminded that Singaporeans are looking for viable alternative government.

    patriot

  19. 26 Robox 10 March 2011 at 08:26

    Hi Alex, this prediction for the elections is one that would be considered worse than the last one because there would be one less outright win than in 2006.

    Yet, there is a discernible element of protest this time around that did not exist, at least to the same extent, as in the last elections. This would translate into protest votes.

    Your opinion?

  20. 27 Breakdance 10 March 2011 at 10:18

    To oppose for the sake of opposing is to see oneself only in terms of the ruling party. This is not helpful in the long run.

    Poltical parties which contest the ruling party’s elitist agenda and philosophy of growth at all cost are on the right track.

    I hope I am wrong but I think that WP are only trying to tweak the system and NOT bring substantial change. An example of a substantial change would be advocating a 1 year NS and cutting ministers salary. Bringing about substantial change is to not undo all previous policies but an attempt to change entrenched ideas.

    Alternative political parties have to do all they can to put forward an alternative path that is not entirely discontinous with the past achievements. It is counter productive to call political parties other than the one in power as “oppositon parties”.

    I admire all the leaders of the alternative parties, and that includes LTK. I sense however hesitance on his part to speak and bring about substantial changes in the nation. He is too reverential to the party in power. Perhaps the WP platform and campaign will prove me wrong.

  21. 28 Breakdance 11 March 2011 at 21:57

    Dear Christopher,

    I agree with you that LTK is a leader in his own right. His achievements and his work with the WP is much appreciated.He certainly does not need armchair critics like me to tell him what he needs to do. But I have my opinions and here are a few points concerning national leadership:

    Firstly, a national leader is someone who communicates constantly through press conferences, pamphlets, books, rallies, interviews etc about issues which concern the nation. It is through these means that a national political leader makes himself heard on issues close to his heart.

    Secondly, a national leader is someone who picks issues of conscience and begins to advocate strongly on behalf of persons or groups which tug the hearts of Sporeans. Kuan Yew in the late 50’s built his support thru the advocacy of disgruntled workers etc. Chiam See Tong’s advocacy for those arrested in operation spectrum is another example.

    Thirdly, a national leader is someone who leads. Viswa Sadasivan’s maiden speech together with his motion which reaffirmed the principles of our pledge, spoke of national identity. He was speaking on behalf of Sporeans and pointing a way forward with his suggestions and criticisms. Kuan Yew smelt the threat and hit back hard.

    Fourthly, a national leader’s values will sooner or later collide with those of the ruling party. How to deal with this is important. Again Kuan Yew is an interesting example. He had no qualms about taking on the ruling party in the 50’s. He truly relishes a “fight”. Anyone with some sense of self preservation however will think twice before engaging the power of ther ruling party in 2011. Sooner or later however the challenge must be met with no hold barred debates and passionate advocacy.

    Given our current set of circumstances it would be unrealistic to expect leaders from the alternative parties to fully meet the criteria above. I think LTK has to some extent met some of the criteria for national leadership. He can and should go further if he wishes to fully develop as a national leader. Hence the suggestion to lead a GRC team and to go for a bigger platform in parliament.

    • 29 Christopher 12 March 2011 at 15:30

      Hi Breakdance

      I agree with the points that you have raised above.

      Realistically speaking, the scenarios that you have placed above are unlikely to emerge in the context of today’s parliamentary debate. The political arena has changed to a large degree since the days of the 1950s (admittedly, I only know as much as the books tell me, as I’m only 20 this year). There is perhaps good reason for Mr Low to play a softer tune when raising the oppositions’ concern. The truth is that, most Singaporeans do not fully know or care what goes on in Parliament and for those who do, their knowledge of the dynamics in Parliament is at best veiled.

      This may be overly presumptuous of me, but I sense perhaps your frustration in seeing the potential for Mr Low to play a stronger role in Parliament and I can see your point in raising the stakes for the WP to have their leader lead a GRC contest. For all that we know, Mr Low himself may have considered such an election strategy but decided against it (for as we both agree, the circumstances may not be most favourable). That is his choice and I respect it.

  22. 30 Down to earth 13 March 2011 at 01:13

    Alex, I strongly agree with your reasoning and share your prediction of the outcome, though I may not be happy about it.

    Much as I want a strong, credible alternative emerging, I think we have to face reality.

    And unlike other countries, the reality of Singapore politics is not really that unpredictable.

    Because much of it can be analysed from pre-elections scenario of the opposition (Currently is this any much different from the past?) and the past election history.

    Economic events, eg high cost of living, high HDB property prices, foreigners taking jobs of locals, etc etc, although getting worse now may not affect the significant majority. Reason being as the government plays a major role in the economy, do not underestimate the positive effect, directly or indirectly, it has on the “rice bowls” of majority of voters in our small, urbanised and homogeneous nation, whatever the economic events. This is the key aspect of uniquely Singapore favouring PAP.

    Or the majority feels that even if the opposition were to win slightly more, it makes no difference to PAP 2/3 majority and hence no impact at all on change to key policies.

  23. 31 Gazebo 28 April 2011 at 02:20

    after watching all the boisterous videos on the elections, i revisited this article. my biggest fear is that if the morning after is indeed an 87:0 situation, every last energy of this democracy movement that has been seeded will be sucked dry. the higher one reaches, the harder the fall. i really hope just this once, singaporeans will walk the talk, and vote with your conscience.

    • 32 twasher 28 April 2011 at 11:24

      I doubt the democracy movement will be vanquished if it’s 87:0. The hard facts are that the ruling party has not been resolving bread-and-butter problems. These are only going to get more urgent by the next election, since they evince no desire to make the major changes that are required. It will take a few more elections, but eventually the bread-and-butter problems will be bad enough to bring about the PAP’s downfall. I do not see change or renewal coming from within the PAP, so this is the only way it will happen.


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