Groundwork, good candidates and consistent branding, part 2

This is just an addendum to the earlier post, in an attempt to estimate the weightage of the likely factors for success.

I had earlier said that persistent groundwork appeared to be critical to Workers’ Party’s victories in Hougang and Aljunied. Other factors like having strong candidates and clear party branding were also important. By how much?

Below is a table of the various contested constituencies in the general election of 7 May 2011 (uncontested Tanjong Pagar GRC omitted) sorted in descending order of opposition party vote-shares. Punggol East is mentioned twice because two opposition parties contested there. The dots are based on what I have heard or seen of their activities or the landscape.

The base level of support for any opposition party, borne out of frustration with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) was probably 30 percent this election. You can see that the worst-performing results were around 30 percent. This in itself is quite interesting, because it seemed that people were really upset with the PAP, and yet the base level is not much higher than in 2006 when I estimated it to be around 23 – 25 percent. In other words, popular frustration alone does not guarantee votes, a point that I made in a few posts during the campaign itself in my attempt to communicate to the parties the need to speak about other issues like vote secrecy, fear of PAP retribution and idealism.

(I knew even then that groundwork would count a lot, but in the short time available to parties during the campaign, if they hadn’t done their groundwork by then, it was too late. So no use telling them that.)

To get to 40 percent vote share, at least two other factors were needed. To get close to or past 50 percent, groundwork was a must-have.

Strong candidates, e.g. Vincent Wijeysingha or Nicole Seah, can make a significant difference but are not enough to pull the opposition team all the way to 50 percent. Arguably, voter affection/sentiment for a candidate is a stronger factor than credentials, as seen by the transferability of Chiam See Tong’s  “magic” to Lina Chiam, and to his new ward of Bishan-Toa Payoh. Then again, affection cannot be earned without a reputation for groundwork. This is not to say that Lina Chiam herself had no reputation of her own. Having worked alongside her husband for years, people do have affection for her in her own right. But she threw some of it away during the televised debates when she did not impress, thus losing points in the “branding” and “messaging” columns.

The Workers’ Party and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) approached branding and messaging in distinct ways. The former chose to present itself as middle-of-the-road policy-wise, thus a “slightly to the left of the PAP” brand position. Its manifesto was extensive, but during the hustings, it hardly mentioned any of it. Instead its messaging was stripped down to the need for an opposition presence in parliament and its dependability at the local level.

The SDP chose to trumpet its policy proposals in its messaging, thereby giving it some heft. With Danny the Democracy Bear and a strong internet presence, it partly succeeded, in branding itself as a serious, cutting-edge party.

I won’t say that one was a better route than the other. I think both worked. The key difference was that the Workers’ Party had a huge dollop of groundwork.

Less often spoken about is the factor I name “private properties”,  referring to the percentage of voters living in private housing (as opposed to public “HDB” housing). Joo Chiat is 100 percent [correction: 99 percent] private housing. There’s a high percentage also in East Coast, Holland-Bukit Timah and Mountbatten. There is a considerable number of private homes along the Thomson corridor but I reckon these are heavily outnumbered by not one, but two HDB townships of Bishan and Toa Payoh. Tanjong Pagar too would have a significant percentage of private condominiums, but it was not contested.

Analysts have known for a while that the readiness to vote for an opposition party increases with educational level, though not any Tom, Dick and Harry opposition will do. Give voters a strong candidate or good party branding and they are relatively easy for the opposition to win over. Educational level correlates with income and housing type. One therefore sees this effect in places like Mountbatten and Holland-Bukit Timah where, even the absence of long-term groundwork, opposition candidates/parties got a noticeable boost.

For example, last night, speaking to the candidates and counting agents from the SDP, I heard that in the public housing parts of the constituency, e.g. parts of Clementi, Ghim Moh and Bukit Panjang, their vote-share was in the low-to-mid-thirties range (i.e. not much different from HDB heartland areas like Yuhua, Bukit Panjang and Sembawang where the party also contested). Yet, the SDP ended up with nearly 40 percent vote-share overall in Holland-Bukit Timah. Since press reports have given a figure of 70:30 public housing: private housing split in this group representation constituency, what it means is that the private housing areas probably gave a slight majority (50 – 55 percent?) to the party.

I sincerely hope opposition parties would be more strategic in planning for the next elections, and I hope a steady build-up of analysis helps.

52 Responses to “Groundwork, good candidates and consistent branding, part 2”

  1. 1 boman 8 May 2011 at 13:37

    As always, like your analysis work and hope that the political parties are digesting it in the months ahead.

  2. 2 generational 8 May 2011 at 14:55

    For all the makings of an epic swing, the outcome is surely most pathetic. Still, the political awakening is akin to the saying “the door has been opened and cannot be shut” (DXP?).

    For WP it’s imperative it seizes this generational opportunity to establish a track record in order to achieve some critical mass by the next 2 GEs. The window is 2021. That’ll be when the present “old” generation (60s & above) have moved on and in their place, people in their 40s and 50s now who have been at the short end of the stick for past decade.

    For PAP, it remains to be seen if its arrogance has been turned. I hope so (for the longer-term interest of Spore) but I have little confidence it will. I fear there’s just too much systemic inertia and self-interest. At best, the constituent vote swings will be an opportunity to clear some dead wood and provide an opportunity for new others to step up. (So I see the next 10 years will be proving ground for both New PAP and WP.) The existing leadership generation has had its opportunity (not a few have screwed it) and must therefore prepare to pass on if the party is to survive.

  3. 3 Anonymous 8 May 2011 at 15:18

    Hi, just one inaccuracy, Joo Chiat SMC is about 99 per cent private housing (not 100 per cent). There are four blocks of HDB flats which are part of the ward.

  4. 4 JC SMC voter 8 May 2011 at 15:23

    Hi, sorry, not sure if my previous posting went through. Joo Chiat SMC has around 99 per cent private housing (not 100 per cent). There are four blocks of HDB flats that are part of the ward. [additional thought that came to my mind as I re-typed this: could that have made the difference given that it was a close fight in JC?]

    • 5 lot.salem 9 May 2011 at 01:18

      Hard to tell.

      Strangely, the residents of the four blocks of HDB flats were marked as part of Marine Parade GRC.

      • 6 T 9 May 2011 at 16:00

        Just to split hair with JC SMC voter – those 4 blocks across Siglap Centree are SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust) flats and strictly not HDB.

        Lot.salem – they are in Joo Chiat, and not Marine Parade. Maybe you confused them with other blocks?

      • 7 JC SMC voter 9 May 2011 at 22:16

        Hi, this is in response to T — my bad, the four blocks are HUDC, according to The Straits Times report on May 8.
        In an earlier TODAY report (,-says-PAPs-Charles-Chong), it was mentioned: Mr Chong was speaking to the media after his first walkabout in the only HDB estate in the SMC.
        Located along East Coast Road near Siglap Shopping Centre, it is made up of only four blocks of low-rise flats with about 100 units in all.
        [note: Joo Chiat is a misnomer for the SMC, given that the part which is really Joo Chiat has been absorbed into Marine Parade GRC, and what is left are estates like Siglap, Telok Kurau.]

  5. 8 Anonymous 8 May 2011 at 15:59

    I voted for SDP but I have never seen Chee Soon Juan or any of the candidates around in my estate. The only visit they made was to the nearby Ghim Moh market. Indeed, many of the candidates were unfamiliar faces for most of the voters and they never did door-to-door visits in my area. What were they doing when the PAP was holding events to attract the voters? It is legal for Chee Soon Juan to appear anywhere, what. He just can’t contest nor appear on stage during the elections.

    Holland-Bukit Timah GRC is a very large constituency. But SDP has many volunteers and if you split up into small groups of people, you can cover a few high-rise apartments over a few weeks. They could also have visited the shops and coffeeshops if they couldn’t visit all 15 to 30++ floors of a building.

    SDP’s manifesto is my favourite out of all other manifestos but if this party is really out of touch with its supporters and targetted voters, I will give them 1 to 2 more elections to prove itself before I switch to another party. Having good policies and good rapport with people is important for me. Without either, any political party could turn into PAP no. 2.

    • 9 Voted NSP Mparader 8 May 2011 at 18:05

      I think door to door visits are over rated when you look at the bigger picture. Put it this way, even if LHL himself were to visit me, I’d still vote opposition because I believe there is a need for alternative voices in parliament.

      Of course, I can see how there are those, especially the older generation who see house visits during elections as being sincere. Strange that they don’t mind when MPs don’t come around anymore after that.

      • 10 Anonymous 9 May 2011 at 07:28

        Adding to what AL at 8 May 2011 at 21:21 said:

        Many of the people in the estates surrounding Ghim Moh market are a mixture of blue-collared, white-collared workers, the elderly and the young. Some of the elderly can understand some English but the others can’t. Parts of Ghim Moh are aging estates filled by those in their 50s to 60s and older. Then in some of the other blocks, there are a lot of families living in poverty.

        This might change when Ghim Moh Link finishes building and people start moving into the new blocks. That’s around August to September. A lot of people in my block have already sold off their flats to other younger families.

        Well some people prefer face-to-face contact and make part of their voting decisions based on that. Others are too busy to catch up on the elections online and only if there are visits made, then can the opposition gauge their mentality.

        Then there are the older people who probably get to see only news broadcast by the mainstream media and even if they feel totally helpless, wouldn’t find any source that helps channel their frustrations. That’s considering they can even speak Mandarin. Many of the elderly here can only speak some Mandarin and mainly dialect.

    • 11 Gazebo 8 May 2011 at 22:03

      i actually hate door to door visits, opposition or incumbent. i don’t need these things to make up my mind who to vote for. they disturb my precious evenings, and are pointless to me.

      i vote first and foremost for justice and ideals, then policies. personalities matter very little to me. i guess that’s the result of an extensive education.

  6. 12 Ryan 8 May 2011 at 17:16

    good analysis. trumps Straits Times any day.

    keep it up. singapore needs more of such high level analysis.

  7. 13 jax 8 May 2011 at 17:31

    it is highly unlikely that the PAP will or
    can change. they believe so firmly in their
    policies, that they really cannot see any
    other way of doing things. they are truly

    for those who voted for spore, this is
    somewhat good news. as the PAP will not change,
    things can only get worse, esp with the
    900,000 more foreigners that the party wants
    to and Will bring in, though the current
    infrastructure cannot support the 5.2 million
    pple now here.

    this will hopefully force more to look to and
    vote for alternative parties. this is ultimately
    what is needed for spore’s survival, as it
    is only these parties that can bring in new ideas.

    the big worry is, can spore survive till this
    stage is finally arrived at? and when that stage
    is reached, will remedial action be too late?
    will spore be able to weather the drastic action
    which by then will be totally Essential and need
    to be carried out At Once?

    the biggest hits i reckon in the near future
    will be on basic necessities – Water and Food.

    in the not too distant future, it will be the huge
    number of penniless older people with no job, not
    enough savings because their homes have cost so
    much, and no homes, as they will be foreclosed on
    since they cant pay for their endless mortgages.

    by then, evolution will be out. it will be
    revolution. “repentance” will surely follow.

    meanwhile, people should enjoy their upgraded but
    mortgaged leasehold homes while they can and
    those billion-dollar rivers in their backyards.

  8. 14 whatu1 8 May 2011 at 18:31

    Unlike the machine that rolls out all encompassed policies to “benefit” all, opposition needs to work on the “personal” touch. It is true that most opposition do not work the grounds way before election time as the usual “don’t know where to stand” or “changes will be made in the electorate” replies will give them a reason out. However, why did Potong Pasir go back to the current government is one big question for the opposition to consider.

    Mr Sitoh, the current nominated MP for the ward has worked tirelessly to convince the people in the ward to give him a chance to perform through continued knocking on door for the past 15 years. So it is not just the opposition that works hard.

    Nothing is more convincing to citizens than hard work to want to help. Will Potong Pasir go back to the Opposition after 5 years? Only time will tell if (a) the incumbent party keeps their promise of “goodies” to the ward and (b) the new opposition party start hitting the ground, make themselves visible to the ward’s eyes and continue to meet the people in the coffee shop. Since they still have a smaller voice via NCMP, issues can still be brought up.

    My views only. Ask me 5 years later to see if the ground still the same.

  9. 15 8 May 2011 at 18:38

    Hi Alex,

    Great analysis, my take was that the alternative parties this time round has a very good chance to take more than 2 GRCs and a couple of SMCs beside Hougang/’Potong Pasir’. They lost due largely to manpower on the grounds helping to cover on a day to day basis, unlike PAP, who has the RCs, PAs, grassroots etc to help. (Also of cos, the large war chest of $)

    If the alternative parties had a large base of members/support stepping up to volunteer and help… they should be able to reduce the gerrymandering of the boundaries and help the parties and candidates in their outreach.

    If the readers out there felt that Singapore need a more robust parliament with a healthy numbers of alternative voices to act as check and balance (slap the drivers if they fell a sleep) than we should ask ourselves how willing are we to be a part of this in a more involved way, not just during election period that come once in 5 yrears or attend rallies night after night? Last but not the least, that some of the alternative candidates (rightly) deserved to be in parliament moooore than some of the PAP ones, than something has to be done.

    For me, I have decided to join a party. Reason? well its simple. WP has won a GRC, a joyous moment in Singapore history indeed, but taking care of a large GRC isn’t the same as taking care of Hougang SMC. So because of that, they probably need more manpower to help with lotsa stuffs.

    Happened to read this and it make sense to me, any battle to be won, the logistics is as important as the soldiers and hardwares.ou

    I would encourage if you felt the same about the above, go support a party or a candidate(s) you identified with. I know I will.


  10. 16 laïcité 8 May 2011 at 18:50

    Hi Alex,

    Whilst I agree with the claim that the readiness to vote for an opposition party increases with education level, I don’t think this necessarily translates to the level of income or the fact that one lives in a private property.

    The reason I say this is because while such a relationship may be true for residents of private properties up to an extent, I don’t think it applies to the super rich, which may take up not an insignificant percentage of the Holland-Bukit Timah ward.

    I’m talking about the super rich who stay in big mansions with driveways and garages and the likes. These people are usually businessmen or bigshots in the financial industry, and therefore value political stability above all else. It would be difficult to get these people to vote against the status quo that had allowed them to earn their wealth. Moreover, their businesses also stand to benefit from policies that do not limit the influx of foreign labor and that limit workers’ right to strike or to demand a higher wage.

    Short of attempting to appeal to their humanity and morality to stress the need to look out for the weaker members of society, I don’t think any amount of rebranding or groundwork can get these people to identify with parties like WP or SDP.

    • 17 yawningbread 8 May 2011 at 20:33

      No party is going to worry about the super-rich. By definition, they will be very few in number. However, your point about the inexact correlation between educational level and housing type is taken. Indeed, it is possible for the younger generation still living in HDB apartments (perhaps their first home, perhaps still living with parents) to be indistinguishable from those in private condos or landed property in terms of political beliefs.

      • 18 AL 8 May 2011 at 21:21

        I lived in Ghim Moh for six years – my neighbors then were predominantly chinese educated blue collar workers and retirees. House visits to this group is probably the only way to get them on your side.

        Personally felt that SDP’s campaign lacked a connection to this demographic. The WP certainly connects with this group very well.

      • 19 semi-elite-and-caring 9 May 2011 at 02:00

        hi alex, great analysis. spot on for many things that i didn’t realise until after reading this.

        -The upper middle class and the PAP-
        “No party is going to worry about the super-rich.” I think this is very true. It is the much larger number of upper-middle-class and the merely wealthy (ie top 10-20% minus the top 0.1% ultra wealthy) who’s vote they cannot discount. This group would not vote on upgrading but on other factors. For some being with the RC and PAP would make doing business easier or their career improve. However others (like surgeons, accountants) don’t really need to ass-kiss PAP or politicians. Yes, some of these people do stay in $10M bungalows with garages. but no bodyguard at gate. now that’s a true indicator of wealth and power ^_^

        -Why many private estate dwellers don’t care for PAP-
        I stay in a semi-elite neighbourhood (not holland-bt) in landed property. We never got offered any carrots (no lift in my house. and my neighbour’s lift in their 3 storey house is new). The recent ruling regarding private property owners buying hdb have quashed the downgrading dream of upp-mid-class retirees. The younger ones, like me, whose wealthy parents worked hard for, so that we could pursue the career we want, cannot afford HDB flats with our median income salaries (really afford, not mah bow tan afford). and we still stay with our parents. So unless we need to boot-lick PAP for personal gain, there’s nothing much PAP can offer private estate dwellers beyond good government. And they’re showing they’re not that good at it.

        I’m not surprised that over half of the richer private estate dwelling holland-bt folks voted for SDP and I’m glad that you have disclosed the numbers that prove the ‘private estate hypothesis’. yes I’m sick of pro-oppo netizens calling upp-mid-class/rich folks ‘PAPpies’…

        -Groundwork is important-
        Many of the upp-mid and wealthy are educated enough to see through the biased reports on opposition parties in ST. But the middle-aged/older folks don’t get news online regularly. It’s the information from opposition parties that DON’T get published in ST that they’re missing out on, such as clarification on policy, rebuttals to the PAP etc. Going door-to-door and distributing flyers etc will help. some prefer face to face, some prefer flyers. and we never get any PAP presence (except from greeting our neighbour the MP of another constituency), so if the opposition wants to, here’s where they can differentiate and garner even more support.

        -Branding and communication-
        During election announcements, I heard many cheers from my neighbours for Worker’s Party (and I think some very loud WP cheers from the ex-army general type though I can’t be too sure 😀 ). In conversation with other landed house owners, I found WP to be considered credible, even though no one could say what their election campaign or manifesto was. Not for the SDP though. But then I realise the SDP branding is mostly from online presence and not reachable to the richer and older voter. So yes, branding is important, so is making sure the brand reaches the audience.

        -Private estate SMC will go opposition-
        I do hope the opposition parties start preparing now. I think if the GRC gets abolished, any constituency with a lot of private estate would go to the opposition. I can only hope Aljunied and Michael Palmer’s win would be enough to abolish it. I’m going to grill, i mean, ask my new PAP MP about it… (sir, i’m so sad we lost GY! and got TPL! please no more GRC! sob sob) heh heh.

  11. 20 ahmad 8 May 2011 at 19:21

    Clear and consise analysis, as always. I agreed wholeheartedly the importance of groundwork. The other opposition parties, especially the smaller ones like RP and NSP would do well to heed your advice. Otherwise we might see some more consolidation of opposition parties come GE 2016.

  12. 21 SG 8 May 2011 at 19:22

    I also presumed higher income and more educated group are not easily subjected to threat of not given carrot or lift upgrading. Growth dividend do not tempt them easily.

    Potong Pasir also has a number of private property residents and they were ready to support good opposition like Chiam too.

    I spoke to my aunt who had a private property in Bukit Timah why she chose to vote for opposition and she told me the overcrowding population irked her. She is someone who prefer Singaporea to be more greens and less crowded. Space gave her a sense of homely feel.

  13. 22 George 8 May 2011 at 19:23

    It’ll be interesting to see the percentage drop in votes for the PAP in GRCs to see which Ministers lost most grounds and if the stats reflect their unpopularity.

  14. 23 Jonnyboy 8 May 2011 at 19:49

    What disappointed many people is that some GRCs helmed by unpopular ministers survived this GE (in the 50s percent), even as a relatively more popular George Yeo lost his seat. For the next GE, can there not be a collective strategy among the opposition parties to let the stronger teams take on these weaker GRCs (ie. helmed by unpopular ministers)? Concentrated fire power on the weakest links will enhance the chances of victory. This is certainly one of the factors for success. However, it remains to be seen whether the opposition parties can work together to achieve this total national strategy, since this will mean the stronger parties like WP will become even stronger while the weaker ones may languish. If they can agree on such a total strategy, work has to start now. Opposition parties will have to swap constituencies and they will have 5 years to walk the ground.

    • 24 twasher 9 May 2011 at 06:48

      Firstly, I’m not sure it’s a good idea for opposition parties to cooperate in this manner. It makes them lose their individual brandings and seem merely anti-PAP.

      Secondly, there were obvious strategic reasons for WP to contest Aljunied. It’s close to Hougang, so they have a geographical base from which to do their groundwork. It has a high proportion of blue-collar residents, who are more easily drawn to the WP. Finally, the WP had already sent an advance force in 2006 that did very well despite not having high-power candidates. So it was reasonable to expect that the strengthening of the team in 2011 would be sufficient to gain the 6% more votes needed to win the GRC.

      There’s no point swapping GRCs when you already have done the groundwork in certain GRCs. It just makes you look insincere and uncommitted, from the voter’s perspective. It makes you look like you care only about getting into parliament, not about your constituents in that specific geographical area.

      • 25 whatu1 9 May 2011 at 19:57

        The problem with existing opposition parties is some of them play musical party chair. I dont have any analysis but if im not wrong, members who switched alliances didnt fair as well as members who are presented fresh from the oven. @Alex. Care to let me know if this is factual? See Gomez. Steve. And the couple of Reformers.

        Personally, suspect the chief culprit of this phenom is personality poisoning. What not good for the goose, wont be good for the gander.

  15. 26 sloo 8 May 2011 at 20:53

    I have the impression from chatting with friends that it is the upper middle class that tend to lean towards the PAP. Str8 and gay friends of mine who are comfortably nestled in their million dollar apartments turned out to be to be some of the strongest advocates for the PAP

    Almost all of them sing the familiar same tune: that life has been good for them, that they only wish for the status quo to be preserved and they are voting mainly on their own self-interest.

    It is this section of people who would never sway to the opposition (bar any big dramatic event that affects them)as they all share the same characteristic – a lack of empathy with others that do not belong to their very exclusive economic and social class. and lets not forget that this group includes a high proportion of civil servants as well.

    High minded policies and manifestos have their appeal but to entice the vote of this section, the opposition party had better cook up a better carrot.

  16. 27 Gazebo 8 May 2011 at 21:03

    what these sorry singaporeans can’t understand, is that to ensure that these debacles are not repeated, we need to accept some short term pain, and BREAK the system. truly send home a message to the ruling party. how the GRC system is a farce. how arrogant they are to think singaproeans are automatons. but singaporeans simply can’t see past anything short term. i really hope its simply that, because the other logical conclusion — that they actually accept the injustices of the ruling party — is a really terrifying and disappointing one.

    comparing the success of WP compared to the SDP, it is clear singaporeans really don’t care about ideals. WP is a great party, don’t get me wrong. but they certainly do not compete on the basis of ideals, riding a lot more on anger towards the ruling party. whereas the SDP is 100% all about ideals. maintain and uphold justice first. then we talk about policies. but clearly this extremely strong and cohesive message had no traction whatsoever with singaporeans.

    this is pathetic. singaporeans are the classic fxxks on this planet who cant see the forest, only trees.

    • 28 whatu1 9 May 2011 at 01:12

      Political grounds cannot change overnight. SDP Gen Sec Mr Chee used “hard love” tactics previously. In any other Western countries, this would be “politically acceptable” and even bread and butter. (See how Greenpeace uses hard love tactics to teach whaling vessels) However, in a conservative withdrawn environment where suppression is an identified key from the onset by the ruling party, how many people can understand his form of protest? It has taken more than 15 years just to break through the strangle hold of the GRC system, which was in placed to slow down the political growth of the nation after 1991. It seems that Mr Chee understands to get through to the nation, it is not about hard tactics, wham-bam style. Look at his video in Hokkien. Tell me if he is appealing to the older generation with his old style or a different approach.

      To be useful opposition politician, understand the electorate is vital and getting their vote to mandate a seat in parliament is the ultimate goal. Only when one get the seat, then one can make something happen. From governance of the electorate, to raising issues in the parliament, to representing the electorate to gain something for them. All these are what the voters want the opposition to do for them. Any other thing outside is just hot air. One cannot change things without the mandate by the people and one cannot get the mandate without making policies and bringing across these policies to the electorate.

      Only when trees are planted in a bunch and grown over time then a forest will emerge. This is a political awakening in Singapore. Barriers in place via GRC has been broken. Will there be an overwhelming tsunami in the next election since there is a chink in the armor? Or will the armor seals up the chink before the tsunami can break through.

      Volunteer for a party of choice and hear what the party is heading towards. Then consider if the party is indeed gearing up for the next challenge.

    • 29 js 9 May 2011 at 03:11

      my sentiment exactly!

      There are many Singaporean who were well “shape” by our system “MYOB”. They are not interested in justice nor do they care with the influx of new citizens the native Singaporean became the minority, what they care most is their self-interest.

      There are also quite alot of businessmen(not the super rich) who are worried that changes might affect their business that why they vote the ruling party, again you can see they always put self-interest above all.

      I like SDP as compared to WP too but unfortunately those Singaporean seems to put self-interest above all!
      I feel so sorry for the whole team because they have everything to lose yet Singaporean do not appreciate the work that they want to do.

      IMHO there won’t be a second chance for the opposition as i forsee that the ruling party will put in all their effort to increase the number of new citizen to secure their “empire” forever.

      • 30 whatu1 9 May 2011 at 22:51

        you will be surprise at how better educated some new citizens are compared to native citizens. I will be the first to admit if I didn’t get my tertiary education overseas, I still will be programmed to think likewise. How to wake one up from their own dream when they do not want to be woken? Make all the noise possible but nothing can change unless change is initiated from within oneself.

        I will give doubts for new citizens as to their political preference as they would have seen more political volatility than native citizens. Take the Chinese for instance. Have they not been through the feudal system where the head is like a king? Or communistic system where the head is again the king? They can understand if one’s head becomes too big, it is never good for the people as demands come hard and fast. (any resemblance of a system we know?) And for this exact reason, new citizens may vote otherwise. So please give new citizens more political sense than perceived.

        If only native citizens can awaken from their political slumber, then we will see more changes. As reported, a lady in Aljunied was a staunch supporter for the incumbent. However, seeing how her son struggled to make ends meet and buy a house, she decided there was a need to give alternate voices to raise concerns over what she sees is a problem for her. This is political awakening.

  17. 31 Dickson 8 May 2011 at 22:21

    I am actually quite pleased with the results. The strongest opposition candidates won. Imagine for a second that even the much hyped Nicole Seah got in. She carries with her a team of inexperienced young folks. I’m not sure that they are up to the challenge of immediately taking over the town council operations and responding to the barrage of ammunition that the PAP will surely fire over the years. In contrast, the WP team, with LTK’s leadership, knows how to hit the ground running on day one. I still remember 1991 where the likes of Ling How Dong got voted in. Their performance in Parliament were embarassing, to say the least. No wonder, voters soured on them after 5 years. I’m glad that the 6 opposition candidates that got voted in are probably more up to the mark and better able to establish the opposition’s credentials. This is good for the long run. This is a long game, not a short one. I do hope that the East Coast GRC team, Kallang GRC and the Joo Chiat NCMP will continue working the ground for the next 5 years and I’m sure this will bear fruit.

    The PAP is unlikely to change. LSL probably feels a bit smug that he managed to still get 60% of the vote. More imporatantly, he can be perceived to be the “hero” that rescued the PAP from greater loss by his “apology”. And the contrast with GCT who’s support nose-dived in Marine Parade is another icing on the cake. With GY gone and GCT losing further influence, what’s left will be the “conservative” wing helmed by the likes of Teo Chee Hean. They are firm believers in the “father know best” style of government. They think the problem is that they need to do more “explaining” not that they need to make any substantive changes. Good luck!


  18. 32 x 8 May 2011 at 22:23

    Regarding your category on ‘private properties’, I’m wondering how about a category on ‘HDB with upgrading potential’ too. One of my mum’s friends who simply believed that the half-done lift upgrading in her flat will ‘never be finished’ (quote) if she didn’t vote for the incumbent party. It sounds funny initially, but if many residents of flats with half-done renovations thought like this…

  19. 33 whatu1 8 May 2011 at 23:22

    For anyone who lived through the 1991 election when 4 electoral wards went to the Opposition, they would tell you how much “softer” the government were after the “fallen”. Then came the GRC system which caught many people by surprise and even with 4 voices in Parliament, the GRC system went ahead.

    Without preparation, many opposition were caught off guard as community lines which were traditionally party lines as well, could not be agreed upon by the various fractions. Instead, I can still remember parties contesting the GRC were putting up lesser qualified candidates which the incumbent party tore apart on grounds of standards.

    It has taken opposition quiet some time to attract the correct quality of members breaking through community lines. If it has taken us over 15 years to grow the Opposition in order to break through a GRC win, there should not be any further restrictions as long as each opposition parties open their criteria and see the “heart and quality of an individual” under community lines. We need our opposition to build upon this break through.

    Which opposition parties wishing to emulate WP in winning a GRC, they would have to start early and work on the grounds to let people know their presence. Even if boundaries are to be re-drawn, the groundwork done will give wherever these electorates are the mindset of being free to choose alternatives if incumbent is unwilling to listen to their needs.

    Looking ahead, there will be more favorable and people friendly policies coming as the machine tries to tweak its way into the citizens’ hearts again for the next election. At least we will all have a good 5 years break before things heat up again.

  20. 35 whatu1 8 May 2011 at 23:33

    Forgot to add, please do not expect too much of a policy change towards the opposition. As with post-1991 results, policies changes can be drastically against opposition. And don’t expect the 6 opposition votes to carry weight against 81 votes. Policies will still be steamrolled if necessary.

    The other thing is, please do not join an opposition party because it is “trendy” and the “in-thing”. Serving people is not all glamor and glitz. If one feels being a waiter/waitress is an “unglam” job which maybe even “demeaning”, then being a “serving politician” is just as similar if not worse. (that is, unless you are working for the Lightning Machine, which then can accord you with Kate Spade products as membership entrance perks).

  21. 36 Rabbit 8 May 2011 at 23:44

    @ x

    YOu do not have to worry about your half-done lift upgrading will never be finished. It has no impact on which party took over the town council management. All these contracts or sub-contracts jobs will be made known to the new party to ensure it flows through. There will be a proper hand-over/take-over process. YOu need to trust the town management professionalism in this matter.

  22. 37 Anonymous 9 May 2011 at 00:12

    I would agree that groundwork is important. That is why unpopular ministers can get by because the grassroot leaders under their charge do a good job. Interestingly, you mention about private estate because I stay in a private estate. RCs and CCs don’t really feature very much in our lives.

    I think good groundwork is not simply by walkabout, distributing flyers and selling newsletters. Opposition can’t achieve much in terms of groundwork if they just do that.

  23. 38 Curious 9 May 2011 at 01:40

    Hi Alex,

    I first want to say that your posts during the elections were some of the best and most informative pieces that are available online. Thank you. After reading this analysis, I’d like to contribute to your data. I spoke to a friend living in the Holland-Bukit Timah area, who would be considered upper middle-class (married with two kids, living in private, landed property). For someone in that demographic, who doesn’t typically surf the internet for political news, the fact that the PAP was seen walking the grounds on the first day of election while the SDP left an automated message on the phone, made a significant impact in terms of who appeared more sincere about serving the area.

    I also have a question. Are non-MPs allowed to walk the ground and knock on doors when it isn’t election time? I had the impression that this would be unlawful. I hope you can enlighten me.

  24. 40 Magi 9 May 2011 at 01:47

    Groundwork, persistent and faithful, is all important. Sylvia and team earned my respect, even though I have certain doubts about the WP, because of this. How immensely difficult it must have been to return to your area of loss, and persists for FIVE long years!

  25. 41 Anonymous 9 May 2011 at 04:02

    Is there data available on breakdown of percentages based on demographics (income, age, etc…)? Is it possible that only the PAP has access to this data or are the votes destroyed?

  26. 42 Angie 9 May 2011 at 04:21

    Has anyone done an online poll on this?

  27. 43 Saycheese 9 May 2011 at 08:06


    “One of my mum’s friends who simply believed that the half-done lift upgrading in her flat will ‘never be finished’ (quote) if she didn’t vote for the incumbent party. It sounds funny initially, but if many residents of flats with half-done renovations thought like this…”

    Maybe the little funny guy whose understanding of affordability is different from the average Singaporean will pick up on this weird idea and delay upgrading till just before the next G.E., and then have his RC members go on a whispering campaign…
    May the Tampines folks have 5 years to repent…a democratic society based on justice and equality.

  28. 44 kitty 9 May 2011 at 10:01

    I’m from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. I saw a lack of demographic strategy in both parties. But I suppose this is something that wasn’t factored in because Singapore politics have not reached that level of maturity like in the US. Even though Holland-Bukit Timah GRC had 91,000 plus votes up for grabs, neither parties really did any demographic research to target the voters.

    In the US, it’s all about trying to get the majority of the votes, and party strategists on both sides do their research before campaigning. I suppose what Sylvia Lim had been doing for the past 8 years could be considered as part of the strategy which was why WP had the advantage in Aljunied, and their numbers in East Coast were strong.

    I do hope that the Opposition parties, particularly SDP, SPP, SDA and RP, will take this election as a learning experience, and by the time 2016 rolls in, they will be ready with a strategy which will target the different segments in their GRC (if that is still around).

    This is what an election is all about. It is simply a contest to grab votes.

  29. 45 edmundtan 9 May 2011 at 17:51


    Eh, the GRC came into play before 1991 lah. It was already in play since 1988.

    Therefore the GRC wasn’t implemented after 1991 to “fix” the opposition winning 4 seats.

    • 46 whatu1 9 May 2011 at 22:56

      @edmundtan. Last time GRC 3 members. After 1991, become Big 4, Super 5 and even Mega 6….

      • 47 whatu1 9 May 2011 at 23:05

        Sorry make that 1988, only 3 per GRC. In 1991, start of Big 4. Then Super 5, then Mega 6… Isn’t this gerrymandering? Moving political yardstick further and further?

  30. 48 Gard 9 May 2011 at 19:37

    The analysis can be enhanced from the perspective of the monarchy. Twenty opposition members looks about what the monarchy can stomach, so the monarchy wouldn’t be sitting idly by and allowing opposition get their wits about.

    The Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system looks to prove less effective over time to keep opposition out of government. In this case, the monarchy should adopt the recommendation to dismantle the GRCs and implement multi-corner contest requirement for SMCs. Simply put, all SMCs must be contested by at least three parties. Multiple SMCs can be lumped if there is insufficient candidate. Lumped SMCs may have higher requirements in the minimum number of parties to contest. Uncontested wards would still enjoy incumbent walkover.

    This can be framed in terms of ‘giving voter greater value and choice’ and ‘stimulating greater competition / ending political collusion’ in a maturing democracy. If Singaporeans can endorse the peculiar rationale for GRCs back then, I’m sure the monarchy would have no problem passing this into law.

    No doubt, opposition members would still need to do all of the recommended activities: branding, retail politics, consistent message, etc. But the demands would put more strain on party coffers and resources. So SDP and WP have to work extra hard to wrestle Holland V out of the monarchy; but the monarchy (and some other bold – and rich – opposition) will also work harder to restore Hougang back to her folds.

  31. 49 John Tan 9 May 2011 at 22:04

    I’m curious as to how many voters, if at all, voted against SDP in Holland Bukit Timah as one homophobic blogger has claimed that to be the reason why the team didnt do as well as WP despite having star candidates.

  32. 50 Anonymous 9 May 2011 at 23:52

    Alex, you were right that SDP lacked a common branding/motto in all of their speeches.

    They tried to go for a lot of variety but at the same time, there was no slogan or motto, to bind them all together. They could’ve at least gone for some sort of slogan or motto and got each speaker to chant that and motivate the crowd.

    It should be one motto to rule them all. Or brand, rather. And their speeches should reflect that branding AND the mentality that drives that brand and their policies. I suggest finding people with experience in creating brands.

  33. 51 peach 10 May 2011 at 06:13

    Alex, why do you think that the SDP’s Holland-BT team only did marginally better than their Sembawang team, despite having fielded their star candidates in the former?

    What are the differences in demographics between Holland-BT and Sembawang? I’m thinking if Holland-BT has a higher proportion of private housing, combined with the fact that they fielded better candidates there, then the margin between Holland-BT and Sembawang should be higher than a mere 3%.

    Also, what do you think motivates the upper-middle class/upper class to vote the way they do? I understand that the more well educated tend to value democratic ideals a bit more, but this may not necessarily translate into votes for opposition parties/may not be their highest priority. How should opposition parties chase the upper-middle class vote?

    Finally, how do you think religion influences voting behaviour, if at all?

  34. 52 whatu1 10 May 2011 at 12:08

    The GRC Big 5, Mega 6 system was in place to prevent more seats being lost during an election. Hemmed by a Minister in each GRC, the incumbent was banking on the team leader to lead a team into parliament, aka TPL seat. If TPL had contested in a SMC, do you think she would be in? Maybe she would have to forfeit her deposit?

    This system of keeping opposition out had worked well until now. As information barriers get broken with technology, more and more “truths” are being uncovered and biasness reports are slowly getting more neutral. This is why parties using new media tends to have a better holding than those who didn’t. See how a last minute ditch to get to know Gen Y on FB was made….

    Let’s see what the incumbent pushes through for the next 5 years as we are only second guessing what policy changes will be made. The only thing for the opposition now is to continue to work the grounds and wait for the electorate to be drawn. Regardless of SMC or GRC, when ground work is done, the electorate will remember you and there will be a higher chance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: