Very little tactical voting in presidential contest

It was a photo-finish between Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock, with the former pipping the latter by only 7,269 votes, or about 0.3 percent. However, this margin was a wee bit more than the total number of overseas electors (5,504) and so the local count was considered conclusive. Tony Tan will be the seventh President of Singapore.

Immediately, recriminations began. Supporters of Tan Cheng Bock accused supporters of Tan Jee Say of “throwing” the contest to Tony Tan. This suggested that supporters of Tan Jee Say ought to have engaged in tactical voting to deny Tony Tan the presidency.

But maybe they did, except that it was not enough to overcome Tony Tan’s support.

I had long suspected that such recrimination would happen and that was why I ran a survey Thursday through Saturday. I did not announce the aim of the survey earlier and I think very few readers of Yawning Bread managed to read my intention from the survey questions, but the main objective of the study was to see how many Singaporean voters engaged in tactical voting in the presidential election. Between the possible answers “not enough tactical voting” and “no tactical voting”, the data confirmed my hunch that it would be closer to “no”. The results show that there was little of it. Only about 2 or 3 percent of voters switched to voting for Tan Cheng Bock when they would really have preferred Tan Jee Say.



The cookie that is Singapore politics often crumbles into a pro-People’s Action Party (PAP) and an anti-PAP camp. In general elections, the pro-PAP camp has long been the larger one, thus giving the party a huge majority in Parliament, but the presidential contest was not one that would determine the government. A by-election effect was expected where voters would use the occasion to register their unhappiness with the PAP by voting against it (or its proxy) when the government was not at stake.

As the actual results showed, only about 35 percent percent voted for Tony Tan, the candidate that everybody knew the government preferred. Nearly two-thirds voted against him.

The problem in this contest was that there were three alternatives to Tony Tan, and from the beginning, there were fears that the anti-government vote would be badly split.

Usually, when such a situation occurs, voters will consider tactical voting — i.e. where they vote for the candidate most able to unseat the one they most dislike, even if that candidate they end up voting for is not their first choice.

At least two Straits Times reporters asked me, fairly early in the campaign period, if I foresaw Singaporeans voting tactically. I said while they might like to, it would be hard to actually carry it out. The reason is that a key piece of information was necessary — which candidate stood the best chance of unseating the most disliked candidate? So long as opinion polls remain illegal during an election period, it was difficult for Singaporeans to know who was the leading alternative.

Tactical voting is largely an issue only for the 40 percent of the electorate who chose opposition parties in the general election of May 2011.  They would probably refuse to vote for any candidate the government is seen to prefer, and that was Tony Tan. However, as alternatives, they had a choice of Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Jee Say and even Tan Kin Lian, though in the latter’s case, it was widely believed that he stood little chance.  For the 60 percent who voted for the PAP in GE2011, tactical voting would not be an issue, because Jee Say would have been so unacceptable, the choice would only be between Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock.

It so happens that Yawning Bread largely reaches the 40 percent who voted for the opposition; that made this site a good vehicle for carrying out a survey on tactical voting.


Why do I say that this site largely reaches this 40-percent pro-opposition block?

Results from an earlier survey by Yawning Bread around the time of the May 2011 general election showed a good correlation between Yawning Bread readers’ preferences and those who voted for opposition parties. The party-percentage split from the May 2011 survey was very close to the actual party vote-shares among opposition parties that eventuated, as can be seen from this table:

Thus, one could roughly say that respondents reached by Yawning Bread mostly came from the 40-percent block that voted for opposition parties and in a fairly representative way — except for age and gender skewing, which is commonly seen in internet surveys on politics.

Since this site reaches the same segment of the electorate that was faced with the issue of tactical voting, a Yawning Bread survey would be a good vehicle for studying this phenomenon.

In fact, from this presidential election survey alone, I was able to predict the final vote shares of Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian. This is because Jee Say and, to a lesser degree, Kin Lian would be drawing their support from the 40-percent pro-opposition block. Since  my presidential election survey gave me data on how this block was voting, I could extrapolate it to a nationwide level. I told three friends at around 3 p.m. on Saturday, about midway through Polling Day, that Tan Jee Say would get about 25 percent nationwide and Tan Kin Lian would get less than 5 percent. It would turn out correct.

This ability to predict from survey results is consistent with the assumption I am making that Yawning Bread surveys reach a roughly representative section of the pro-opposition camp. This is how I arrived at my prediction:

From the survey, Tan Jee Say was getting about 66 percent of responses. This meant that he’d be getting about 26.5 percent of the nationwide vote (rightmost column of grey-green table), provided:

(a) my responses were roughly representative of the 40-percent opposition block, and

(b) virtually none of the 60-percent pro-PAP block would be voting for him.

I think (b) is a fair assumption. If even supporters of some opposition parties buy the notion that Tan Jee Say was too “confrontational” — a comment I have personally heard — then what more of PAP-sympathetic voters?

That Tan Jee Say’s final vote tally amounted to 25 percent nationwide kind of confirms that assumption (a) is valid too, since the prediction I made from my survey came very close to that.

Given the above experience with Yawning Bread surveys, for the rest of this article, you can assume that what we are analysing here is the behaviour of the 40-percent pro-opposition block, with a slight skewing to younger and male voters.


Method and responses

There was a vague sense that Tan Cheng Bock could be the one to back if one wished to vote tactically, simply from the fact that he could pull support from both the 60-percent block who voted for PAP candidates in the May 2011 general election, and from the 40-percent block who voted for opposition candidates. However, as the campaign progressed, Tan Jee Say gained traction. I heard, for example, that neighbourhood bookies were steadily shortening the odds against Tan Jee Say as Polling Day neared.

Anti-government voters could thus have been unsure whether to back Tan Cheng Bock or Tan Jee Say, even if they wanted to vote tactically.

The way to look for tactical voting is to compare how people actually voted against how they would really want to vote if the need for tactical voting is eliminated. The survey did so by setting up a series of hypothetical straight fights to see how voter preferences changed.

The survey form was available on Google Docs slightly after midnight in the early hours of Thursday 25 August, and remained active till 10 p.m. on Saturday 27 August (i.e. until about 2 hours after polling stations closed, but well before the results were announced). You can see the questions by clicking the thumbnail at left.

Other than this site, myself and a few readers advertised the survey on Facebook, but I believe the reach via Facebook was not great.

A total of 1,823 responses were received. After eliminating non-citizens and those too young to vote, there were 1,724 valid responses.

Clearly, as an internet survey, no claim can be made that it is a controlled representative sample of the voting population as a whole. However, as explained above, I am confident that my survey is reaching a rough representation of pro-opposition voters, the same segment that was faced with the possibility of tactical voting.


How well they think they know the candidates

Questions 2 and 3 of the survey made a digression. They were questions asking how well voters thought they understood the candidate they had chosen to vote for, on a scale of 1 to 5:

Tan Cheng Bock had the lowest mean scores on both measures. Yet, he nearly won the race. What would explain that? Some possibilities:

(a) These were pro-opposition voters; The pro-PAP voters (not captured in my survey) might have thought much more highly of him;

(b) Although he didn’t have strong positives, he had the least negatives;

(c) Although values-affinity and performance-predictability were low, he had relatively high personal likeability.

Tan Jee Say had the highest mean score for values-affinity. He communicated best what he stood for. He also had the second-highest mean score for performance-predictability, suggesting that he also communicated well what he was going to do with the office.

Tony Tan tied with Tan Cheng Bock in having the lowest score for values-affinity. However, readers must take care to note that the sample size was small (only 60 respondents) and anyway respondents were generally opposition-sympathetic, when the vast bulk of his support came from the pro-PAP block not captured in my survey. Tony Tan had the highest score in terms of performance-predictability; people felt they knew how he was going to perform in office.

Tan Kin Lian had middling scores for both values-affinity and performance-predictability. Again, take care that the sample size was relatively small (79 respondents).


Hypothetical straight fights

In this section, I am restricting the analysis to only two groups of respondents: those who voted for Tan Cheng Bock and those who voted for Tan Jee Say. The sample sizes of those who voted for Tony Tan and Tan Kin Lian are too small to be meaningful.

The aim is to see how many of those who voted for Tan Cheng Bock would really have preferred another candidate. Likewise for those who voted for Tan Jee Say. In other words, how many engaged in tactical voting.

Starting with those who actually voted for Tan Cheng Bock:

The interesting one is the bar chart on the left. If Tony Tan and Tan Kin Lian were not in the contest, 5.6 percent of those who voted for Tan Cheng Bock would have preferred to vote for Tan Jee Say.

If you look at the bar chart to the right, you’d see that if Tony Tan and Tan Jee Say were not in the contest, 2.7 percent of those who voted for Tan Cheng Bock would have preferred to vote for Tan Kin Lian.

These are relatively small numbers, which is why I say that there was little tactical voting.  Tan Cheng Bock did not enjoy much of a boost from that.

Now let’s look at whether Tan Jee Say enjoyed any boost from tactical voting:

Even less. In hypothetical straight fights, only 3.9 percent and 4.3 percent would really have preferred Tan Kin Lian and Tan Cheng Bock respectively. In other words, the vast majority of those who voted for Tan Jee Say had him as their first choice.

The numbers behind the above bar charts for hypothetical straight fights can be seen by clicking the thumbnail at right.

The survey does not capture what pro-PAP voters did. However, pro-PAP voters had little room for tactical voting since for most of them, the only relevant choices were between Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock. Tactical voting would not have been on their minds.

The data confirms what I had initially thought — while in theory, tactical voting was possible, in practice, I couldn’t see it happening unless either Tan Cheng Bock or Tan Jee Say gained an obvious advantage over the other. That didn’t happen and so tactical voting didn’t much take place.



The next concept is even more abstract. However, it is important to check this out.

Perhaps tactical voting didn’t take place simply because those who supported Tan Cheng Bock or Tan Jee Say did not think the other was a worthwhile substitute? Maybe their respective supporters had so little affinity with the alternative that switching their votes was out of the question?

To determine this, the survey posed three more hypothetical straight fights. For those who voted for Tan Cheng Bock, the survey asked them what they would have done if Tan Cheng Bock wasn’t even in the contest. Who else would they have voted for?

As you can see, if Tan Jee Say had been available (in the absence of Tan Cheng Bock), about 70 percent would have switched to Tan Jee Say. It is quite obvious that of the Tan Cheng Bock-supporters from the 40-percent opposition block, many would consider Tan Jee Say as a reasonable substitute.

Between Tony Tan and Tan Kin Lian, more of them would prefer Tan Kin Lian than Tony Tan.

I can express this state of affairs by deriving a “substitutability index” — where the higher the figure, the higher the possibility of substitution (or alternate attractiveness). The index is simply the proportion of voters who would switch to the alternative.

For example, if we wanted to know how substitutable Tan Kin Lian was for Tan Cheng Bock, then

1.  We use for analysis those respondents in my survey who actually voted for Tan Cheng Bock (n=445);

2. Look at the results in hypothetical scenarios where Tan Cheng Bock was not an option, AND where Tan Kin Lian was — there are only two such straight fight scenarios, one pitching Tony Tan versus Tan Kin Lian, and the other pitching Tan Jee Say versus Tan Kin Lian.

3. In the former hypothetical scenario, 57.1 percent would choose Tan Kin Lian; in the latter, 29.4 percent would choose Tan Kin Lian; average 43.25 percent.

4. Thus the substitutability index for Tan Kin Lian in the minds of Tan Cheng Bock’s voters was 0.4325.

Using the indices so obtained, I can draw a diagram to represent them, where the further apart two men are, the less substitutable they are. In the minds of Tan Cheng Bock’s voters:

Now, let’s look at the group that voted for Tan Jee Say. What would they have done if Tan Jee Say had not been in the contest?

As you can see, they would have been very adverse to voting for Tony Tan. They would vote for Tan Cheng Bock or Tan Kin Lian, whoever was available. If both were available (the middle bar chart), there was a slight preference for Tan Cheng Bock.

The diagram for the substitutability indices looks like this, with Tony Tan held at arm’s length:

The conclusion therefore is that Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Jee Say were relatively inter-substitutable in the minds of voters who belong to the 40-percent block that voted for opposition parties in GE2011.



The potential for tactical voting was there, as we could see from the substitutability analysis. However, in this election, very little tactical voting actually took place. Therefore the most likely chief reason why it didn’t take place was because there were no signals as to how close Tan Cheng Bock was to winning.

If an opinion poll had been done and published a few days before Polling Day (e.g. by an overseas organisation, thus arguably outside the ambit of Singapore law that bans publication of such polls) which showed how close the result might be, quite likely Singaporeans would have altered their voting behaviour considerably. And we would have had a very different result from Presidential Election 2011.

115 Responses to “Very little tactical voting in presidential contest”

  1. 1 Gazebo 28 August 2011 at 13:32

    excellent analysis YB. i guess this is why opinion/exit polls are banned, to prevent tactical voting. do you know what is the justification given by the PAP for banning such practices? is it to prevent tactical voting?

  2. 2 soojenn 28 August 2011 at 14:07

    This is one o the PAP method to control the public. Cooling day… what a joke. They only need cooling day because they are starting to lose their edge.

  3. 3 patriot 28 August 2011 at 14:31

    There were some netizens who wishes that tt wins the PE, not because they like or support him. They theorized that whence tt got elected and works with his intimate fraternity in the Cabinet and screw up, Singaporeans will become more disenchanted with the Rulers. To some extent, such a plausibility exist.

    Me believes that regime change will surely takes place as the older generations passed-on. Dare I say that majority of the intellectual bloggers and readers are the people more active in reminding the Rulers of their weaknesses and schemings. The average Singaporeans, especially the older ones are compliant, feel intimidated and ignorant of national policy. They are happy whenever given some freebies and are bought over easily.

    There will be likely more and stronger political confrontational stances as we proceed, between the intellects and the Rulers. And this will be good for Sg as in my opinion, the intellects are much less incline to violence in seeking liberation.


    • 4 Vernon Voon 13 September 2011 at 17:20

      TT did say in his press conference on Sun 28 Aug 2011 that he welcomed the politically diverse climate and that it was good for Singapore democracy. Let’s see how he makes good on his comment during his presidency.

  4. 5 Rabbit 28 August 2011 at 14:41

    I kept having this nagging feeling that Tony Tan’s victory, even by a small margin, didn’t bored well for Singaporeans. It may be too early to judge but my anxiety tells me that he is too pro to PAP old policies and will block or influence the ruling party’s sincerity for change. His invisible hands together with LKY’s, might hinder Singapore moving forward.

    On the other side of the coin, he may be held ransom if he tried to disobey his previous master. Remember he was part of the GIC team and apparently someone affiliated to LKY family members. Whichever way, 35% Singaporeans voted for dooms day. I doubt he will have the slightest bit of late Ong Teng Cheong’s gut and most likely, by situation, forced to become another Nathan except with some wayang to show that he works & cares for Singaporeans for the next 6 years. At this point, people are calling him to look into PA’s bickering and let’s hope he take this matter seriously to unify the people.

    After this PE election, it is clear that opposition have 30% die-hard supporters (TKL & TJS) and 35% die-hard PAP-supporters.

    Those who prefer neutral voted for TCB – 35% swing voters are going to watch closely what PAP & TT will do in the next few years to decide who they will vote in the next election.

    The sad message from the votes is – 70% prefer ISA and capital punishment. These are the things I hate about Singapore and its people. No wonder, majority of Singaporeans have no love for human beings – very unforgiving lot – and no one should deserve a 2nd chance to live. Typical local trade mark.

    • 6 chewhongjie 29 August 2011 at 09:30

      I disagree with you there. I support the ISA to the degree in which I detest and hate terrorism and religious fundamentalism of any kind. But I respect humankind. Anyhow, I too think that capital punishment is a vestige of antiquated moral systems.

  5. 7 S377A 28 August 2011 at 14:59

    Can any implication be tentatively or loosely drawn from this survey and this election result on an estimate of the number of people supportive of the opposition now? (i.e. are there any apparent significant change after the GE in May?)

    For example, we may assume that 35% of voters who voted for TT are die-hard PAP supporters. And perhaps we may try to analyze the percentage of those who voted for TCB being mild PAP- supporters. That works out a certain percentage of voters who have become pro-opposition (which may have increased since May). Not sure if such an approach is valid.

    • 8 S377A 28 August 2011 at 15:02

      “And perhaps we may try to analyze the percentage of those who voted for TCB being mild PAP- supporters. ”

      If possible, Alex, please correct my above statement in my previous comment to:

      And perhaps we may try to analyze to see what percentage of those who voted for TCB are pro-opposition, assuming those who voted for TCB comprises mild PAP-supporters and mild opposition supporters.

      • 9 yawningbread 28 August 2011 at 16:04

        I believe the numbers are apparent from the article. Of the 35% who voted for Tan Cheng Bock about 10 came from those who had voted for opposition parties in the May general election; about 25 came from those who had voted for the PAP.

  6. 10 Jon 28 August 2011 at 15:04

    Allow me to put this in simpler terms:
    Absent Tan Kin Lian, Tan Cheng Bock would have won.
    Absent Tan Jee Say, Tan Cheng Bock would have won.
    Absent Tan Cheng Bock, TT would have won. Tan Cheng Bock deserves our respect.

    • 11 S377A 28 August 2011 at 16:27

      Yes I think so too. On hindsight, if TKL had withdrawn from the race after sensing that he is the probably the least popular, his sacrifice would have contributed in a bigger way to the good of Singapore. Sigh…

  7. 12 Roy 28 August 2011 at 15:36

    i’ve voted tactically, abandoned TCB and voted for TJS thinking that TJS had more support. as mentioned in this article, without an opinion poll, tactical voting becomes difficult.

    by the way, does anyone what is the voting rate?

    • 13 Jasmine 29 August 2011 at 12:56

      tjs voters are very loud and vocal which is why i’m not surprised many people confused it for him having more supporters than tcb. tcb should have won. i am so mad. but no i don’t think tkl’s to blame. i was severely disappointed when alex endorsed tjs though, i think he’s the only under-qualified one. and since day 1 i’ve been disgusted with him, he seems to be doing things only to boost his popularity. i’m not a fan of tony tan but damn i’d vote for him any day than vote for tjs (over my dead body i’d say!).

      • 14 Jasmine 29 August 2011 at 14:55

        on a sidenote, i’m still a fan alex.

      • 15 Francis 31 August 2011 at 22:32

        Jasmine, Alex has a very thorough and good explanation on why he endorsed tjs, and I fully agree with his analysis. voting for a man who conveys clearly would rather vote for a man whom I know what he stands for, than voting for a man (in this case tcb) just because I dislike tt (ie: tactical voting) and thinks that tcb has a better chance of winning. I would very much like to know about your thought on a question, which is aldo posed by alex in his previous article: what does tcb stand for? And other than his proposal of moving PMO out of the istana ( which is something really trivial), what kind of improvement will he make if he were a president ?

      • 16 Loke Fook Seng 1 September 2011 at 22:33

        I have the same sentiment as Jasmine. To me TJS just played to the gallery saying things they like to hear and they believed him wholeheartedly. I disagree with Alex and Francis. TCB had been consistent throughout his theme of unifying people. If you are holding to this theme you cannot be taking sides.

  8. 17 Sin Pariah 28 August 2011 at 15:54

    During GE 2011, horses were fiercely traded to whittle all contested wards into 2-horse races except for Punggol East SMC.

    For PE 2011, TJS/TKL bit the PAP bait of Split Votes Strategy by turning it into 4-horse race, bearing in mind that TCB was the first to announce candidacy.

    When Generals (candidates) don’t astutely strategise, how do you expect Foot Soldiers (voters) to be massively tactical? Kind of expecting the Cart to pull the Horse.

    • 18 S377A 28 August 2011 at 16:30

      “…TJS/TKL bit the PAP bait of Split Votes Strategy by turning it into 4-horse race, bearing in mind that TCB was the first to announce candidacy.”

      Anyone remember who among the 4 candidates was the 2nd person to announce his candidacy? And who was the 3rd?

  9. 20 Sam 28 August 2011 at 16:09

    I thought as much. Agreed, the information asymmetry has created a fog of war that has made it difficult for many Singaporeans to engage in tactical voting. I believe, though, that it has sent a clear signal that, despite the lopsided coverage by the media, and the best efforts of the government, a definite erosion of PAP support is evident. In the absence of GRCs, and districts with inept opposition candidates, this election can be seen almost as a de facto referendum, or a report card signalling Singaporeans’ true sentiment towards the government. Now what I wonder is, how likely is it that we will get 6 more years of Nathanesque presidency, versus one more closely resembling Ong Teng Cheong? OTC’s pre-presidency days were before my time, so I am not so well informed as to how he compares against TT. However, given that both were former DPMs endorsed by the PAP, is it misguided optimism that I still am holding out hope for a president that isn’t a puppet?

  10. 21 jem 28 August 2011 at 16:30

    I wonder why all the flak is going towards TJS only , when TKL voters as well as those who spoilt their votes both had enough leverage to change the election result. My guess is that people have subconsciously internalised the state propaganda that TJS is the ‘enemy’ and think it ok to flame him.

    Also, I don’t think who announced candidacy first is an issue. This ‘I was here first, so you can’t come in’ mentality strikes me as very childish.

    • 22 Joys 29 August 2011 at 11:47

      I was thinking of voting for TCB too for tactical reasons. However, I could not do so because I am not convinced by his campaign. It is not fair to label voters like myself as vote spoilers.

      Having efficient government is important. Having a good president is important but now that things have turned out this way, Singaporeans should work together even more closely.

      We have the power to improve society. This blaming game has to stop and we have to channel our energy into helping those who need help and raising questions and coming up with suggestions.

      • 23 Just Asking 29 August 2011 at 21:46

        Just asking. Give me one concrete way in which we can actually change society, and in which the government or the president gives a damn. Excuses, excuses.

  11. 24 moby 28 August 2011 at 16:36

    should singapore consider run-off elections (instant or 2-round)? it’s a much fairer system, and one where the silly principle of tactical voting would not have to come into play. essentially, 65% of the population voted *against* tony tan… there’s no way he would have won in a run-off system

  12. 25 S377A 28 August 2011 at 16:46

    It will be interesting if our election system is such that when the margin between top 2 candidates is very narrow, a second round of voting is to be called for (i.e. eliminating other candidates). Such a mandate would be more representative of people’s preference.

  13. 26 Dy 28 August 2011 at 16:49

    I think that if TKL had withdrawn, we might see a much more different PE. TKL garnered 5% of the votes, much more then the 0.34% swing to TT. It might be a bit rich to suggest TKL’s votes would go to to TCB but there’s no denying the possibility that it exists. And I think that is a very strong possibility. My position stems not from any scientific survey but from my impressionistic observation and a little application of common sense.

    I think voters of TKL are made up of mostly ‘voters’ with them neither leaning towards pro-opposition nor pro-pap. I think they were the middle ground undecided voters. Many are sympathizers of him. I’ve had a few aunties wanting leaning towards TCB but voted for TKL because he didn’t want him to lose his deposit and because he had spoken up for them in the mini-bond crisis. Of course, this is by no means a representative of the reasons why people chose TKL. If TKL was out of the equation, I think TCB appeals the most next in line after TKL since he appears the most ‘middle’.

    • 27 Jasmine 29 August 2011 at 13:04

      hmmm you’re right. speaking as a youth (22) who voted for tkl, if he wasn’t in the race tcb would have easily been my next choice. i really had a major dilemma deciding on who to vote for. but in the end i voted for tkl because i liked him, i liked what he stood for, i found him to be sincere in wanting to help ordinary folks. i knew tcb had a better chance of winning and i really wished he had won. In reality, i’m extremely pro-pap. i have so much respect for lky and i think lhl is doing a great job! not perfect but given the economy situation, almost the entire world is in right now, i’d say yes, lhl makes a good PM.

  14. 28 petulantchild 28 August 2011 at 16:57

    I had suspected the set up by the establishment to split votes and had wanted to vote tactically for TCB. But like what Alex mentioned in this article, I wasn’t sure how much support TCB had except that friends mentioned they were more inclined to support him and rumors that he had support of some PAP grassroot. But at the end, my principles and emotional preference got the better of me and I voted for TJS. I think this is a bitter lesson for Singaporeans that the establishment had played us like a fiddle. I hope that in preparation for the next GE, the alternative parties learned from this PE that the swing voters are key and start engaging them. Of course the establishment may even lend a hand to that by continuing with their status quo policies.

  15. 29 abao 28 August 2011 at 16:59

    wow this article actually explained how i felt yesterday morning before casting my vote. had this been a 3 legged fight instead of 4, the outcome would probably been different too.

  16. 30 Kenny 28 August 2011 at 17:31

    I believe some tactical voting affected figures 1B and 2B, with respect to TKL’s votes. That’s the only way to explain why TCB’s voters would prefer TJS rather than TKL, even though the latter is closer to TCB’s platform. This means the voters already saw TKL as a weaker candidate who will not be able to win, and hence would rather vote for TJS, even though they disagree with him.

    • 31 yawningbread 28 August 2011 at 21:01

      I can think of several reasons why someone whose first choice was Tan Cheng Bock would consider Tan Jee Say his second choice and not Tan Kin Lian. You may think that policy-wise Jee Say was too far from Cheng Bock, but policy reasons aren’t the only ones. I can imagine for example, someone saying Kin Lian just didn’t look/sound presidential enough, whereas Jee Say and Cheng Bock did.

      • 32 Jasmine 29 August 2011 at 13:06

        I’m sorry alex but jeesay does not look/sound presidential are you kidding!!! he’s like a major ahbeng!!!!!! ok but i guess i have to agree that tkl is a bit too weak to be a president even though i do like him as a person!!

      • 33 Francis 31 August 2011 at 22:44

        Just because jeesay is assertive in his stance doesn’t make him an ah beng. At least he demonstrated compassion and wanted to do something to help the ISA victims, rather than “sit and wait for further information”. I want a president who can protect his/her citizens, not someone who “sits and waits for information”.

  17. 34 Ben 28 August 2011 at 17:31

    From your experience as a counting agent, do you think there is any possibility for cheating when the ballot boxes are transferred from the polling station to the counting centre?

    I read that SDP has complained to the elections department on this issue.

    • 35 ape 30 August 2011 at 17:32

      I heard from an agent that he has been invited to inspect the bus prior to loading the ballot boxes for sending to the counting centres.

      • 36 Ben 30 August 2011 at 19:07

        Thanks for the reply.. But is there anyone tracking the ballot boxes? Is there a possibility that the boxes are swooped during transport? Why doesn’t they allow the counting agent to board the bus? Do the counting agent sign on the seal and verify the signature before the box is opened?

        I think this could be something of public interest since the election must be seen as a transparent and fair one.

  18. 37 whatu1 28 August 2011 at 17:58

    When it comes to voting, everyone thinks they each have a chance to win the election. If TKL is such a great mathematician, he would have understood he stood to lose his deposit. If he had withdrawn at nominations, maybe results would have been different.

    However, as it all pans out, can I say pride before national interest? Last minute attack on TJS didn’t help at all as it shows how wide his view is.

    Anyway, done and dusted. Onwards for another 6 years of pro-incumbent rule.

  19. 38 suggestion 28 August 2011 at 18:04

    A great analysis and look forward to your analysis based on regions and constituencies.

  20. 39 Vivian 28 August 2011 at 18:19

    Thanks for a great analysis.

    I thought I voted tactically for TJS based on the TOC survey…Guess I forgot to factor-in TCB’s share from traditional PAP voters… I’ll have to work with spreadsheets and charts next time ;))

    If voting were not compulsory and voters without any political convictions did not vote (i.e. aunties and uncles who really dun care and vote by default for the ruling party) maybe we’d have a fairer result.

    Inexperienced voters makes tactical voting very negligible and the ban on publication of serious pre-election polls is obviously another way for the ruling party to remain in power…we’re also not experienced enough to play the game, naively thinking that FPTP is a fair system and that we should vote for whoever we believe in.

    If we had an AV voting or condorcet system the outcome would have been totally different. FTPT clearly favors dominant parties/individuals and is only fair in a two-way fight. Our gov clearly wants the opposition to remain divided and the more parties the better for them. Fortunately in the GE our opp parties were smart enough to ensure 2-way fights in all but one constituency.

    Would our gov change the voting system? Probably not. But i believe voters and candidates are getting smarter so this will not happen again in the next PE.

  21. 40 Bruce 28 August 2011 at 19:00

    No difference whoever is elected EP, that includes TJS as well.

    With so much money at stake and ISA, Official Secrecy Act, etc at its disposal, the PAP will let you do the “checks and balances”?

  22. 41 Humph 28 August 2011 at 19:02

    I’d wanted to vote Tan Cheng Bok, but was curious to see if the gay community had any traction as a voting bloc, as PAP has always played up the power of the conservative voters and disdained gay voters. Since you endorsed Tan Jee Say, Vincent Wijeysingha endorsed Tan Jee Say, etc., I went with second choice and voted Tan Jee Say.

    To my dismay many gay acquaintances voted Tony Tan, and for no more better reasons than “He’s very Seh”. WTF. We Major Fail as a community. There will be no political progress for us, ever.

    • 42 Vane 29 August 2011 at 08:43

      I would rather we do not have a president at all since I think its a superflous position, but spoiling the vote would have been even more counterproductive. In the end i went for Tan JS as his manifesto seems more in line with what I want for Singapore.

      “To my dismay many gay acquaintances voted Tony Tan, and for no more better reasons than “He’s very Seh”. WTF. We Major Fail as a community. There will be no political progress for us, ever.”

      This along with many other silly examples of why voters picked TT is the reason why LKY can call us daft. There are quite alot of Singaporeans who seem to be politically ignorant.

      • 43 Leuk75 29 August 2011 at 23:14

        Actually, the same happened among many of my gay friends. They all felt TJS is too confrontational, the president can’t do anything and like the Thai King and Queen Elizabeth, his role will be just ceremonial and smile and collect tithes. That a “confrontational” president means the investors will lose faith and stop investing in us. That TT looks much better when handling foreign dignitaries.

        Have to agree that many Singaporeans are daft. The Kings and Queens are hereditary while the Sg president is VOTED! A big difference. If everyone just tank and just give up cos the rule is structured this way, this world will still be one where women have no right to vote, blacks cannot marry whites, folks who engage in premarital sex get drowned in pig baskets! Oh and India and Taiwan and Europe will totally collapse in anarchy cos their leaders speak up and challenge. And neither Sarkozy nor Obama looks “seh” cos they both came through the confrontational mould. For that matter LKY as well – he who came through the ranks as a fiery opposition who campaigned through confrontations that will leave the Taiwanese in shame!

        Clearly even us gays being repressed and disdained for so long become totally subservient and lose the ability to think critically. Never mind, we still have the next GE and I remain optimistic Singaporeans will wake up from our intellectual laziness.

  23. 44 Ashinigami 28 August 2011 at 19:24

    @ Sin Pariah, you are mistaken. The first candidate to declare was TKL, about 2 – 3 years back and he was pretty much mule-headed about it since.

  24. 45 A 28 August 2011 at 19:32

    Dear Alex,

    I came across a lecture where a professor on voting mechanisms suggested a way to vote a president that would largely eliminate the need for tactical voting: , Talk 2.

    Perhaps all the questions you had in your survey can be summarized in that one form the professor proposed.

  25. 46 proftobes 28 August 2011 at 19:39

    During the GE, a lot of attention was turned towards the flawed electoral system, and i’m honestly quite surprised nobody brings up the obvious flaw of this election — having just one round of elections and appointing a man who won merely one third of the votes as the president doesn’t seem very democratic to me.
    In my view, there should have been two rounds of elections, with the two most supported candidates making it into the second. That way, one of the candidates would win a majority and reflect the choice of people much better.

    Other than that, great analysis, as always

  26. 47 K Das 28 August 2011 at 20:35

    You have made a superb in-depth analysis from the data you have collated. You have really put some of the arm-chair academics and think-tank political commentators to shame.

    I make the following observations about the results of PE with no data to back it up but from my assessment of what the four candidates promised, spoke about and re-acted to each others’ comments and how the public and the press perceived all these and interpreted and commented upon in the national press and social media.

    What MM s aid few years back is proven correct. He said there will always be some 30% of people voting against the PAP or Government. Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian together got around 30% and Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock picked up the rest 70%. Was a 40% loss at GE 2011 an aberration for the PAP and does this PE result show that the Party is on the mend and will recover lost ground gradually by attending to the immediate needs and aspirations of the common people?

    The 70% (of all pro PAP, Establishment and Political stability) votes got split evenly between Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock. But I am pretty sure that Tan Cheng Bock received much more of Singaporeans votes than Tony Tan did. What perhaps, I believe, clinched it for Tony Tan is the votes of new immigrants who became citizens over the last 5-10 years and a good majority of them would have voted for him. They are grateful to the PAP Government for having given them the opportunity to make a living or advance and prosper here. It is a small but significant voting block for PAP and will remain so for some years to come. It is a “fixed deposit” for PAP as Malaysian Premier Najib would say of Sabah and Sarawak for the Barisan Nasional.

    I also believe that if Tan Kin Lian had withdrawn from the race, a substantial number of his votes would have gone to Tan Cheng Bock, who would, in turn, have beaten Tony Tan hands down.

  27. 48 cat 28 August 2011 at 20:42

    There was NO level playing field in this PE or in any election in Singapore. We are up against the state’s machinery and it’s Squealer which can air and publish all they care on Cooling Off Day but others cannot.

    TT may have won the post of EP but he has NO MORAL AUTHORITY with almost 70% REJECTED him.

  28. 49 Tim 28 August 2011 at 20:56

    I have friends who said to vote for tt based on the following (they have voted for opposition during GE):

    – President cannot do much
    – tt couple are the most photo worthy

  29. 50 Al 28 August 2011 at 20:58

    I can see one small flaw in this survey, which was that a null vote was not an option. It might have affected your substitutability index, although I can see why the option was not included.

  30. 51 fallenangel 28 August 2011 at 21:04

    I voted tactically. i preferred TJS but voted TCB. Pretty much everyone I know said they’d vote for him so I figured he had a higher chance to beat TT. Though opinion/exit polls are banned, I guess there could have been other ways to deduce which non-TT candidate is the most popular.

  31. 52 Chow 28 August 2011 at 21:25

    Probably unrelated but I am thinking that the PAP will take this rather unique election so soon after the GE as a ‘testing’ ground for how to tweak their policies. This is, of course, assuming they didn’t allow it to happen considering that 4 candidates were granted COEs compared to previous instances.

    Of the four candidates, you have Tony Tan representing status quo, Tan Cheng Bok representing a moderation in policies and a focus on ‘people-oriented’ policies, Tan Jee Say as a gauge of how much the electorate has swung the other way, and Tan Kin Lian… well, as a dummy variable. I would like to think that they are probably going to start pushing out more ‘moderate’ policies (populist seems like a dirty word to them) to court those who are the moderates in the Opposition camp. The coming years are going to be interesting unless, of course, the PAP is really so thick-headed as to think a 0.3% win puts them with a strong mandate to not listen to the ground.

  32. 53 K Das 28 August 2011 at 21:38

    Just about an hour back, I met a nearby Chinese neighbour as I was taking a stroll and asked if the result has gone the way as she had expected. A strong Buddhist, in her late 40’s, she shook her head, disagreeing and elaborated in faulty English thus: “I like people who think of the poor and give to charity. Candidate C and D said they will give half their salary to charity. A and B just want to put all the 4 million into their pocket”

    Perhaps Tan Cheng Bock made a tactical error by running down his two opponents by saying that their offer of pay cut amounts to bribing the voters. If he had offered likewise or abstained from making such comment, may be, he would have gathered a few thousand votes more.

    So my neighbour has conveyed a powerful message for the politicians.

    • 54 Dan 29 August 2011 at 10:44

      Dear K Das,
      Exactly. I would have voted for TCB if not for that incident. What he said left a very bitter taste in my mouth.


  33. 55 Wiryadi Hamidon 28 August 2011 at 21:56

    Good effort. Perhaps an annual tracker ie gallup.

  34. 56 Liyan 28 August 2011 at 23:01

    Great analysis again.

    I have a suggestion on data presentation for figures 1A and 2A. The bar chart is probably not the most meaningful way to present data when there are only 2 groups that involve a 100% total. Furthermore, some bars are extremely close to the origin, making it difficult to interpret without refering to the text.

    Perhaps a simple cross-tabulation of the percentages would be better, especially when there is a common demoninator for the 3 charts within each figure.

  35. 57 Poker Player 28 August 2011 at 23:11

    “Supporters of Tan Cheng Bock accused supporters of Tan Jee Say of “throwing” the contest to Tony Tan. This suggested that supporters of Tan Jee Say ought to have engaged in tactical voting to deny Tony Tan the presidency.”

    This only works if you don’t think TCB the the govt’s Plan B.

  36. 59 reservist_cpl 28 August 2011 at 23:39

    Did not vote tactically in order to try to prevent someone from losing deposit, too.

    I think that is something else to factor in, though it’s hard to tell how many voters had that consideration in mind. In the final result, it seems, not many did.

  37. 60 PatricNoNSTan 29 August 2011 at 00:26

    My family and I voted for TJS, no regrets there. We went with our hearts. NO ONE associated with PAP deserves our votes. I simply do not trust them. Imagine, if this Tony old fart could ‘justify’ the investments in the financial firms that failed terribly right after the sub-prime crisis, what will happen in future? I wonder why so many people still blindly trust this bloke.

    But still, no regrets with TJS. He represents what I believe in; he showed most conviction; and, indeed, there is nothing wrong being ‘confrontational’ if ‘confrontation’ simply means asking more pointed questions. We havent had that in Singapore for a long long while.

    • 61 RTT 29 August 2011 at 02:45

      I am with you on this. I don’t regret voting for TJS either. With a 25% vote share, its not reasonable to blame TJS supporters for showing him their support. If anybody is to regret its the 100k odd voters for TKL, but then again this is all democracy, and everybody has the absolute right to decide who they wish to vote for.

      For me I am sort of indifferent to TCB or TT becoming President. Both are probably gonna be similar in their approach and subservience to the ruling party.

  38. 62 Brendan 29 August 2011 at 01:11

    Hey YB/Alex, this article resonates very well with me as a voter who was very tempted to vote TJS but took switched to TCB on polling day itself in order not to help the opposition split the votes. It was a gamble to say the least.

    I think you should also do an analysis on the impact and fallout of this watershed PE as well. Sources tell me alot of Singaporeans are VERY unhappy with the results and that TT got in by the scrape of the tooth.

    What implications this will lead to how the new president will deal with it deserves more analysis.

    • 63 Robox 29 August 2011 at 04:11


      “…[I] was very tempted to vote TJS but took switched to TCB on polling day itself in order not to help the opposition split the votes.”

      TCB is now ‘opposition’?

      To whom, may I ask?

      I have been told to treat this information as confirmation that the rumours that have been circulating are true. I am now actually very glad for the results because I have been told that a certain anti-SDP opposition party had activated its grassroots with the instruction to switch their support from TJS to TCB. (I’m sure the more astute know which party I am referring to. It’s also the first I’m hearing about the existence of a grassroots network of that party.)

      In other words, that spoiler opposition party has not got its way.


      The results have turned out somewhat like I had anticipated after analyzing the many online polls and extrapolating them to be more in line with how such poll results online actually translate into reality. My initial prediction – before the campaign began – based on those poll results was that TCB had a somewhat commanding lead with TT and TJS fighting for second place. But there were many who had defected from supporting TCB after the campaign began, presumably because of how lacklustre his campaign had been.

      Then I predicted that an even closer contest among all three frontrunners.

      The actions of that anti-SDP opposition party nullified that to some extent, which might explain why the close fight was confined only to TT and TCB.

  39. 65 yuen 29 August 2011 at 01:51

    I believe the main reason for the absence of tactical voting was lack of motivation, lack of information was only a secondary consideration: my guess is the 30% who went for TJS and TKL were against PAP rather than Tony Tan personally, and would not have considered electing TCB to be positive for their objective; I can cite yourself as example, in your earlier articles you already estimated that TCB had a better chance of winning than the other two, but endorsed TJS nevertheless

    among the PAP voters that went for TCB, personal views relating to TT were probably much more significant

  40. 66 Robox 29 August 2011 at 06:18

    Nothwithtanding my earlier reply to Brendan, I agree with him that more analysis of the PE results could be made, and by none other than impressario Alex Au himself. I was determined immediately after the GE that while the PE is not the GE, I was going to work to make the PE count for the opposition and future GEs. It was motivated by how the rogue PAP government had long sold Singaporeans on the false notion of the office of the President as a substitute for opposition candidates in Parliament; voting opposition candidates at GEs is therefore unnecessary, a position which at this PE the same rogue PAP government has been taking pains to retract by reminding Singaporeans of the President’s true constitutionally provided powers.

    For a start, what do the percentages polled tell us?

    That the rejection of the PAP hardline ideology, as exemplified by Tony Tan’s percentage polled has become actually more widespread now? Or perhaps, it was never really as widespread as previously believed if not for the many strong arm tactics used by the rogue PAP government?

    That fearmongering by way of the use of the rhetoric of crisis – thanks for yet another gem of an expression, Alex – no longer works as well as it used to? Or did it ever?

    Never mind the claim of a divide among Singaporeans – I still insist it is political diversity finding expression at the polls – what does this also tell us about the divide WITHIN the opposition camp? Where should a party like the SDP look to increase its support base? (My opinion: It is from within the camp that currently still votes for the PAP and not from the WP’s current or potential support base.)

    Frankly, while I did not intially support it, your pre-GE arguments for multi-cornered fights is becoming more acceptable to me now, though I think it will take a longer time than from now to the next GE for the results that I desire to be achieved. (My initial disagreement with your argument had to do with your assumption, which I thought was an erroneous one and and it still could be, of a level playing field.)

    There seems to have emerged not two – opposition and PAP – political bases in Singapore but three. This has been my suspicion for a long time as well. (I refuse to refer to what some are describing as the “moderate centre” – as epitomized by the WP and its supporters – in the same terms because that ‘moderate centre’ is really a soft support for the extremist PAP; nobody who supports extremism, even tacitly, can ever be described as moderate.)

    Just before the GE when Lee Hsien Loong revealed that his rogue party had considered splitting into two, but decided against it because of an alleged dearth of political talent in Singapore, I wrote an article for TRE – I can provide that link later – retorting that it wasn’t any concern for a dearth of political talent that was the real decision for rejecting the idea but instead the political reality of greatly increased chances for opposition party candidates getting elected to Parliament if the PAP had decided on a split that was the reason for the final PAP decision.

    If the PAP had split, results at GEs would look very much like what we saw at this PE; in some constituencies, the opposition candidate/s would have the advantage because the hardcore of opposition support might actually be a factor. (I read that Tan Jee Say was actually the winner at one counting centre in the east.) Specifically, in future three cornered fights involving the PAP, the WP and another opposition party, the last opposition party could actually stand a good chance and even triumph. Tan Jee Say was a strong contender for the presidency no matter which way you look at the final results. Polling 25% against the winner’s 35% – in reality, a difference of less than 10% – is a respectable result. More respectable if you consider the institutionalized cheating that continues to be employed for the PAP-endorsed candidate, and the flipside, severe instituionalized disadvantage for any opposition candidate, especially if s/he is from the SDP as well.

  41. 67 Augustine 29 August 2011 at 06:31

    PE2011 does pose one important question to the opposition parties looking ahead to GE2016. Avoiding 3 cornered fights is one thing, but would they be willing to moderate their positions further to put up an even more united front in the future? Do the PE2011 results suggest that a single, moderate, centrist opposition party has the better chance unseating the PAP as opposed to the smorgasbord of opposition parties that exist now?

  42. 68 Tim Chen 29 August 2011 at 06:49

    I felt strongest for TCB because he was the most coherent and congruent. His willingness to break status quo is yet to be seen but I believed him and felt he was sincere.

    I liked TJS position but did not like him as a candidate. He was reckless and lacked congruence.

    I decided on TCB because he was the most deserving candidate but also strongly because I knew TJS mathematically could not win enough votes and voting TCB was the best strategy to deny TT the Presidency.

    I voted strategically based on the logic that in GE 2011, 60% were pro-PAP votes. These pro-PAP people will choose between TT and TCB. In the liberal camp, I was surprised from my own personal research that TCB was rather popular. As such, I came to the mathematical conclusion that TJS supporters need to vote TCB to beat the odds.

    Right from the start I knew the fact that liberal votes would be split. But its especially interesting to note how TCB managed to appeal to both sides of the political spectrum. If there was one less candidate on the left, TT would not have stood a chance.

    • 69 PatricNoNSTan 29 August 2011 at 11:41

      What is your definition of ‘reckless’ when it comes to TJS? Are you referring to the tone of voice used? The arguments used? Or, just, a media perception that he is there to argue just for the sake of it?

      I have another definition of ‘reckless’ that is exceptionally silent but substantially more devastating: overseeing a loss of 59 billion dollars and not blinking an eye. THat’s Nathan’s ‘reckless’ act, and TCB may just ‘pull a NaThan’ if he won…

      • 70 LOKE FOOK SENG 31 August 2011 at 23:51

        TJS’s $60b proposal to draw from the reserves for his pet projects is a good example of recklessness. While most withdrawals from the reserves are early utilisation of money e.g. for a planned infrastructure and can be recovered in a couple of years, TJS’s proposal is pure cost for an experiment.

    • 71 Mea 30 August 2011 at 17:28

      Please elaborate why you think he is reckless.

      I think one of his strengths is his ability to be outspoken and honest of what he believes in. I do not think voicing one’s opinions would equate reckless. An important thing in a campaign, in my humble opinion, is to show people what you, as a candidate, believe in. And i think he did that rather well.

      I don’t think it is his fault that our main stream media decided to portray him as reckless.

      One other thing is how our culture is against people who dare to speak out and voice their opinions. They deem such behavior as aggressive. Firstly, I disagree that this is deemed aggressive. Secondly, I don’t see how a person who is afraid to speak up is going to make a good leader.

  43. 72 Lisa 29 August 2011 at 07:58

    There is some truth in why some TCB supporters blame TJS supporters. TJS was able to pick up some passionate evangelists and the evidence can be seen everywhere online (TOC, TRE, youtube comments). In following the election coverage, I have seen many postings from TJS supporters who managed to convince TCB-inclined voters to change their votes– family members, neighbors and random strangers like taxi-drivers.

    In comparison, I saw no one from the TKL or TT camps doing any convincing. Centrists who advocated TCB as the better choice gained no traction despite their arguments and were widely derided by anti-PAP supporters who were convinced that TJS would win, a belief that was shown to be far from realistic. Not only that, they were firmly convinced that TCB was a PAP pawn. The tactical deck was basically stacked against TCB’s campaign.

    What the outcome has shown is that not only is vote-fragmentation an effective strategy, the strongly anti-PAP core can be emotionally manipulated and is far from being pragmatic. One could point out that the online polls make a difference, but it has always been known that online sentiment is strongly skewed towards the anti-PAP camp and not truly reflective of the ground. My opinion on whether tactical voting can succeed is that it depends on the emotionality-rationality quotient of this large group.

  44. 73 29 August 2011 at 09:22

    There is a significant numbers of rejected votes(37,826 or 1.76% of total votes cast) which could have affected the final result.

    As a polling agent, were the validity of the rejected votes relooked into when the recount was taken?

    • 74 yawningbread 29 August 2011 at 09:28

      Who’s the polling agent that you’re directing this question to? Or do you mean counting agent?

    • 75 RTT 29 August 2011 at 10:11

      I was a counting agent and I can say that the vast majority of rejected votes were very clear cut – more than one cross, a big cross across all the candidates, blank votes with no marking etc. I believe that the vast majority of the void votes truly reflected the intention of the voter to spoil his votes.

      • 76 Randi Hui Ying Tan 29 August 2011 at 20:59

        I concur. I was a counting agent as well. It was very obvious that there were many who intended to spoil their votes. I don’t remember spending more than 10 minutes disputing spoilt votes at each table.

  45. 77 29 August 2011 at 09:55

    Ya, to any counting agent here. From GE 2011, it was learnt that “GO TO HELL” was counted as valid whereas those with “X” that crossed partially into adjacent boxes were rejected.

    What’s the take during PE 2011 and were rejected votes relooked into when the recount was taken?

  46. 78 shoan 29 August 2011 at 10:16

    I disagree that in this pe, if there were an opinion poll, there would be more tactical voting. This is because, very few sporeans understand that opinion polls like those done in the US are very accurate. It takes years of maturity and understanding of the accuracy of us style polls before ppl will vote tactically. If sg has been conducting polls for the past 10 or 15 years and show that the polls are very accurate, then a poll in this pe would have caused many voters to vote tactically. but that will not be the case if this pe was the first in history to allow opinion polls.

  47. 79 Simon 29 August 2011 at 10:25

    Thank you YB / Alex, this article was well written. As K-Das in his blog pointed out – “you have really put some of the arm-chair academics and think-tank political commentators to shame.” You have been courageous and insightful. If anything, this report will give everyone a chance to reflect on their decisions. These includes those responsible people who care about who they want for their President, the “in hind-sight” critics, and perhaps the PAP as well.

  48. 80 Tuck-Leong Lee 29 August 2011 at 11:05

    There are some of us who anguished over voting tactically and voting for what we believe in. Opting for the latter is no less pragmatic — given we can never tell the results any presidential elect can actually produce. It is more strategic therefore, for us, to stand with clear values so that they stay with us, regardless of who wins. So that the new president knows these values are important for many voters.

    These were my thoughts before the polls:

    “I am not going to vote strategically. If we vote for the second best, we will never know the shapes of our political aspirations. The cost of this is an ignorance that rolls into the next General Election and then the Next Presidential Election. If our non-strategic move wins the least wanted to the throne, then let the voters — us — deserve this vote. And learn by the Negative Path, to a better tomorrow.”

    Rest of the thoughts here –

  49. 81 justamama 29 August 2011 at 14:44

    TCB lost because of his poor location choice for his rally.

    Expo is very inaccessible. I consider that exclusive. He should have chosen a stadium in a heartland. He was right to be the last to have his rally but wrong in choosing the Expo. Many have not made up their mind in the last hour and he should have gone for the kill – securing votes from the flip-flop voters. No way to change hardcore supporters.

    If he had just convinced less than half of the spoilt voters, he will be the next president!

    • 82 justamama 29 August 2011 at 16:07

      oh yes…one more…the carnival/party style rally is a jinx. if you recall GY’s final rally, almost of the same sort. to convince serious last minute voters, you have to get it right.

  50. 83 secondclass 29 August 2011 at 15:04

    Could there have been any tactical voting on the pro-PAP side of voters, since there were two former PAP MPs cum CEC members in the race and that could have split the pro-PAP support to benefit the candidate in the third position?

  51. 84 KM 29 August 2011 at 16:15

    Good points raised and discussed by everyone.
    Juz want to state that, to me, TCB is no different from TT. He’ll still be an obedient PAP president. Those who wish to see real change would do well to pin hopes on GE2016.

  52. 86 Jonathan 29 August 2011 at 18:02

    Good analysis, and I think voters have been played into the hands of the dark force – PAP. As a hardcore anti-PAP, I have no regret voting for “the heart”. I don’t trust anyone who has the slightest link to PAP, no matter past or present. They will most likely end up as a “Yes Man”, whether willingly or pressured to. I voted for the one candidate whom I think has the gut to stand up against the PAP.

  53. 87 Lim Bt 29 August 2011 at 19:54

    With TCB garnering 34.85%, he will be courted by the political parties for GE2016. That is my belief.
    i) After the PE votes were counted, PM Lee was the first to call him, I believed PM knows that this 34% can be swingged to opposition if he did not get TCB on his side.
    ii) TT says (in ST today) : “I’ll welcome input from old friend Cheng Bok.”
    So PAP realized that all the 60.1% did not vote for TT. Not all of them are hardcore PAP supporters. Only 35% are. So PM Lee has a lot of work to do.

    And TCB making statements like :
    a) “I’ll be back”
    b) “There’s definitely a division in the PAP” (Will he help PAP to heal the division or will he take this opportunity to form a new party?)
    c) “I won’t be joining any parties, but I could bring them together.” (what does he mean?)
    So will he be the king maker in GE2016? Is he a hardcore PAP? He can tip the scale in GE2016. He is in a very strong position. He can call the shots. Will TCB and TJS form a new party? Both can complement each other. If they can project a new party that can take care of the people (TCB’s personality, his PE message and more importantly his past record of helping the people which the PAP lacks) and advance the economy and make Singapore prosper (TJS’s economic plan and his working experience in the Ministries and in the private sector) than we have a good combination. Both have good qualifications and experience and good connections. They can draw more professionals and highly qualified people to their parties. Well let’s see how will things pan out for GE 2016.

    • 88 yawningbread 29 August 2011 at 23:21

      2016 is a long long way away. Many things can and will happen in the meantime.

      • 89 Robox 30 August 2011 at 00:15

        I agree that 2016 is actually a long way off but there might be a bright spot here.

        One thing that is known in studies of voter behaviour worldwide is that there is a significant proportion of any electorate that votes out of habit. In Singapore that habit could be said to be the habit of voting for the PAP no matter what.

        With the majority of the electorate no longer having voted the “PAP-no matter what” candidate – though in my opinion, there were two of them who fit that description – that habit has been broken for those who under GE circumstances would have fallen back on their entrenched habit.

        This is a significant breakthrough and something opposition parties would be wise to capitalize on for the next GE.

        The credit for getting Singaporeans to break that unhealthy habit goes to all the three candidates who did not win.

      • 90 yuen 30 August 2011 at 00:50

        “Will TCB and TJS form a new party?” there are quite a number of opposition parties already, and if the election deposit was lower, there would have been more 3-cornered fights, which would of course be to PAP’s benefit.

        it appears TCB “could bring them together.” and wants to lead an opposition coalition, something you might call a Barisan Nasional; since LKY was going strong all the way to his 80s, I guess there is no reason why TCB cannot try this for the next 10 or even 20 years;

        I assume Workers Party would not like to see it happen – it has the ambition to be “the” opposition party and to one day become the government;

      • 91 LOKE FOOK SENG 1 September 2011 at 00:18

        Don’t think TCB will be part of any political party, PAP or Opposition. He just wants to be in the middle unifying the country. The political climate has not reach a maturity that after an election we sit down and build up the country. A major blame lies with ruling party for having a system that does not provide a fair representation of voices.

  54. 92 Kel 29 August 2011 at 19:55

    I like TJS, and I won’t vote for TCB if TJS was not in because TCB is pro ISA and death penalty. We’re liberals! Its an assumption that we’ll all go for a conservative.

  55. 93 Jing 30 August 2011 at 00:15

    thanks for sharing! iam proud to say most of us in my industry voted tactically but unfortunately the nos were not sufficent……someone actually kickstarted this in CBD…..not to split the votes but jsut go for TCB!

  56. 94 Agnes Chia 30 August 2011 at 00:33

    If TJS did not run, I will vote for TT even though I do not like him. Reason being if it’s a “PAP” man gonna be our President, then I rather the “true blue” elitist, say yes pap man be the one than a “pap man” who is neither here nor there and lukewarm. We either seek out some radical change now with TJS elected or stay status quo having TT elected (with such slight margin is a bonus) and allowing political discourse to accentuate further and Singaporeans can get more engaged and get further politicized. With TCB elected, the effects of his trying to provide interim bandits to soothe disgruntled feelings is not going to bring us anywhere but only to perpetuate the cycle of Singaporeans feeling easily contented once again and forgot about a need to put pressure on the PAP government in the polls in 2016.

  57. 95 Daniel 30 August 2011 at 00:44

    Hi Alex, thanks for posting your data online! I analysed it from another angle and found some interesting trends. Basically, among your respondents (i.e. among the non-establishment voters in Singapore), female voters tended to vote more for TCB, while voters’ tendency to vote for TJS increased with age. The trends are rather consistent. I’ve posted the analysis at, if you’re interested to take a look.

  58. 96 whatu1 30 August 2011 at 02:03

    There are many scared people out during this PE. Unlike the GE, the debate of the President holding the key to the country’s reserves played a significant role in many people’s minds. A comment from an ex-banker friend raised this issue to me and he voted for the incumbent party’s choice because “the entire financial world is looking at the outcome of the election. If the key falls into the “wrong” hands, our entire Singapore financial market will plummet as industry players withdraw their support for our market.”

    During the GE, this same person was going all out for the opposition. However, this PE exercise showed an entire turnabout in attitude and rationale.

    With the GE, everyone knows the election process will always be skewed to the incumbent party. So what if they loses a few more seats with 50% result. They will continue to govern the country as long as they hold onto 2/3 majority of the seats. However, the PE was an entire different ball game. If the incumbent party’s choice lost, the position is lost for 6 years.

    With the worldwide financial markets in a mess, it is quite easy to manipulate the fears. After the conversations with my friend, I can see articles about financial institutions “not recommending” Singapore as a good place for investments. Now, after the elections, it seems we are all a better place for parking funds again. Coincidental? You decide.

  59. 97 A Singaporean 30 August 2011 at 07:14

    I was choosing between TCB and TJS until I noticed that there was no policy that TCB successfully championed for the people against the mainstream government. So what if he voted against the NMP, was the outcome different ? TCB speaks from his heart, but I doubt his lobbying efforts will be put paid. This was when I felt that there probably wouldn’t be a difference to the tide of change if TT or TCB became president.

    • 98 LOKE FOOK SENG 31 August 2011 at 23:38

      In parliament you are one in many. But as President you wield the only power of veto. As long as you have a different mind, you can make a difference.

  60. 99 justamama 30 August 2011 at 08:32

    Mr Au, have you thot of running for GE? Having followed GE and PE very closely, I have come across many highly intellectual individuals who gave great inputs…if only all these can step forward, we will have CHANGE. As a mum of 2 young kids, I really would like to see a CHANGE in our society before we are all sold!

  61. 100 mike 30 August 2011 at 10:35

    I agree that if there is an opinion poll conducted before elections, the chance of Tony Tan winning will be very low. I am wondering what law forbids this and also can we cinduct this opinion poll via phone from JB?

  62. 101 Simon 30 August 2011 at 12:40

    @justamama, Our next generation has already been sold. Imagine we were ask to adopt Mandarin as our mother tongue. Isn’t it sad when our forebears can’t even speak our real mother tongue like Hokkien, Teochew,Cantonese, Hainanese, Kate….etc But are we speaking better
    Mandarin or even English today? We speak “Singlish today. So what gives? Ask a Frenchmen, Dutchmen, or a Spaniard to adopt English as the mother tongue and see what happens. The PAP is not an institution builder unfortunately. How can we be proud Singaporeans when we cannot have something that we can identify with – like our roots? When I was in Holland, many Dutchmen are multilingual. They speak Dutch, English, German and even French. The same is in Sweden, Switzerland and Israel, many of its residence speaks English. Yet no one has been asked to adopt a foreign mother tongue even when the nation is as small as ours.

    Sorry for the slight digression here. I thought I should mention something that many Singaporeans are deeply affected with even when it is not discussed openly.

  63. 102 Max Ng 31 August 2011 at 09:10

    There’s no need for such an analysis really.

    If TCB did not enter the PE then TJS would probably be the only threat to TT. The elections dept would then simply disqualify him as he did not fullfill the criteria, just like the opposition team who submitted their documents 35sec late.

    Many people did not realise that TJS was really a chess piece of the PAP to dilute the votes. Ironically, some actually think that TCB is the secret agent of the pap instead.
    While some of the 25% voters may have genuine reasons to vote for TJS, the hard-core ones simply prefer a opposition candidate. Blinded by hate, these voters fell right into the trap.

    In another words, TJS entering the contest is a blessing to TT, he’s never a threat. The question is, could TJS himself sees this? He should be smart enough. So why then did he continue to contest?

  64. 103 rick 31 August 2011 at 18:09

    tactical voting sounds good but since the mainstream media wont show any opinion polls n also its illegal hence tat’s not an option.IT a disappointment that the opposition votes split into 3 camps TCB,TJS and TKL,should oppo votes unite then we should hav a non TT result,also concentrating the oppos votes is also a tactical move since PAP votes split into TT n TCB.WE should have capitalised on it.That means even if opposing voter dun like TJS but still vote for him to prevent a split,tat can work too

  65. 105 Singaporean 1 September 2011 at 03:00

    I too tried to vote tactically. However, my guess was wrong as I had thought TJS stood a better chance than TCB. I had wanted to vote for TKL initially but sensing that he would lose I switch to TJS thinking that would prevent TT from winning but I was wrong.:(

    • 106 Loke Fook Seng 1 September 2011 at 15:08

      You were probably misled by all the online surveys that were slanted in favor of TJS. One survey has the survey size at almost half a million. Hard to believe when the eventual electorate was just slightly above 2 million. The signalling was all wrong and being manipulated.

  66. 107 Son of Pulau Belakang Mati 1 September 2011 at 11:24

    First and foremost, I dun agree with Yawningbread that says TJS votes caused TCB to lose. It also doesn’t matter who had announced their candidacy 1st.

    Personally, supporters of TJS choose him because he is the only one that speaks out for S’porean interest (although TCB also – Think S’porean 1st). So there is no right or wrong with individual choices! Instead, we should analyse why the ‘No. of Rejected Votes’ surpassing 37,000 (1.7%) which is more than 5 times the winning margin of TT to TCB.

    Considering S’porean just casted their votes during GE2011 in May, I don’t see why they are not aware on what constitute a ‘Spoilt Votes’. Yesterday, I was informed by a ‘jaga’ of 1 of the Sec Sch that was used to count the ballot papers. Counting was still going on in the sch till 4.30am Sunday morning. Somehow, the counting was stop, and the officers were asked to bring all the ballot boxes out of the Sch by 5am. (I am unable to verify this incident)

    Could there be something ‘fishy’? Let me share a cents worth of my opinion. My dad is 76 years old had been supporting all the oppositions whenever S’pore is having GE. But during the recent PE, he had chosen TT. Why? Because in his opinion, TT is the best person to head the country (sic)!

    TCB, I believe U can be a better President than TT. TT, we’ll be watching U because there are still S’poreans crying for help as they are unable to cope in life due to:

    1. Unable to get a decent jobs due to influx of foreigners (not only Foreign talent). Workers for PRC, Philippines, India & other countries filled up the positions (I’m not referring to ‘Cleaning Services’) once filled by fellow S’porean. Even in the education sector, we have to compete with them. What good being a S’porean if we are not ‘protected’?

    2. High cost of living (food, transport, utilities, medical, etc.). There is no free medical for civil servants (perhaps only for ministers??) let alone fellow S’porean.

    3. Help given by CDC & other financial assistance bodies are very limited – probably just to show off that they are helping. (e.g $350/mth for a family of 7, up to only 6mths max. I experienced it myself.)

    So, Mr. President, do your walk-about more after the election. Don’t expect the citizens to visit your istana only during the festive holidays!!! WE prefers President’s that’s down to the earth, have a listening ears, responds to our cries on bread and butter issues – not sitting comfortably in the istana!


  67. 108 K Das 1 September 2011 at 14:37

    From the way I see it I would guess there was solid core support base for the 4 candidates around this proportions: TJS 20% (simply pro-him for good reasons), TT 20% (deriving mainly from endorsements from top PAP leadership, and Industry, Business houses and clans), TCB 15% (his own admirers and supporters) and TJKL 2-3% (NTUC income policy beneficiaries and families, those who benefited from his advice on many issues like in the mini-bond fiasco, and his circle of friends and contacts) The voters constituting this percentages, would have not voted for any other candidates other than their respective chosen ones, come what may.

    This left about 40-45% remaining who were largely swing or tactical voters. TJS had very little votes from this block. These votes were squarely divided between TCB and TT, most likely.

  68. 109 Loke Fook Seng 1 September 2011 at 22:49

    Ever sit down and contemplate that the ruling party has both simple majority and super majority in parliament as well as a pro-establishment President who is the last person who can veto anything. This is total domination! What are we arguing about here?

  69. 110 WME 9 September 2011 at 13:13

    At the end of the day I think the lack of tactical voting is a good thing. Pple should be selecting someone they think is the right guy instead of making sure someone they don’t like does not win. The latter is very unhealthy kind of behavior be it for politics and anything else in life.

  70. 111 Vernon Voon 13 September 2011 at 18:10

    Alex, can you point us to the provisions which state that opinion polls prior to voting is illegal? What are the penalties?

    • 112 yawningbread 13 September 2011 at 18:59

      Hmmm . . . we may have stumbled onto something here. There appears to be nothing in the Presidential Elections Act that forbids publication of opinion surveys during the presidential election period. I know that Sections 78c and 78D of the Parliamentary Elections Act forbid this during general elections and I simply assumed that there are equivalent provisions for presidential elections, but now that you’ve asked. . . . maybe there is no ban after all.

  71. 113 ricardo 14 September 2011 at 08:04

    WME, I disagree with you on Tactical Voting.

    The Electorate has just as much right to vote to prevent an evil man getting elected as to elect a good man in.

    In countries with more Complicated Electoral systems like Oz, I wish the Elections Depts would publish simple instructions on how to vote for someone … and also how to structure your preferences to make it less likely for someone you don’t want to gain power.

    The front page of

    is a wonderful definition of what Democracy is about.

    We also ignore at our peril, the true nature of die-hard PAP support. I was surprised and a little nauseated to learn this and how strong it is. A large proportion regard the Democratic process like choosing an expensive present from their Rich Dad. These are the multi million Dignity seekers like many new MPs.

    The rest, like the PA, are the fedayeen and would not only have opposition humbled but trodden into the earth.

  72. 114 information 17 January 2012 at 07:51

    My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was once totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how a lot time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  73. 115 octopi 7 July 2012 at 23:15

    This is probably a little late. I voted tactically, which apparently makes me one of the few who did this. I couldn’t decide between TJS and TCB, but I guessed that TCB would get a higher proportion of the vote.

    For me, the personal convictions of the president are important but not as important as whether they were willing to use their office as an independent power base from which to question and probe government policies. I think that TCB and TJS are both willing to do so.

    The president is not an active shaper of government policy, but mostly reacting to what the government does. Like Tony Tan says, the president is not a “super-MP”. But he is and can be a “super-opposition-MP” because he is basically in the position of querying the actions of those in power.

    Tan Jee Say will have the benefit of being a former PPS and seeing first hand the mechanics of power in high offices. But there is a downside to being “too confrontational”. The veto power must be used judiciously and you just don’t want there to be a constitutional crisis every time he opens his mouth. I prefer a president who will keep his eye on the line, and only when the PAP parliament egregiously crosses it, cries foul, rather than an activist who would treat the office like a bully pulpit.

    From the vantage point of 2012, it is a little off-putting how impatient TJS is to get into some form of elected office, how late in the game he discounted himself from the Hougang election, and how blatant it was that SDP was just a stepping stone for him. These actions detract from his self-portrait as a man with firm convictions.

    Tan Cheng Bock has the benefit of experience in parliament, and a proven record of dissenting. If he is opaque about his standpoints, he has to be, because his base comes from both the pro-PAP and anti-PAP people, who think very differently. Any statement he makes that supports one faction would lose votes from the other faction.

    My thoughts go to Ong Teng Cheong who everybody thought was going to be a party man, but instead, once in office, showed a desire to do the right thing. It just tells you that you can’t tell what the guy is going to do in office based on what he says in the campaigning period.

    So the rationale of voting tactically is that I think that the first priority is “anyone but Tony Tan”. Then even if the most popular non-TT guy is not exactly to your liking, he has 6 years with which to promote government reform while in office.

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