PAP suffers 10.83% swing in Punggol East by-election


It is true that by-elections put the governing party at a disadvantage. Voters are more likely to express their unhappiness without risk of toppling the government. Nevertheless, the 10.83% swing against the People’s Action Party in Punggol East (polling day: 26 January 2013) is one that must worry the PAP.

If we superimposed this swing on the results of the May 2011 general election, the PAP would lose its majority. It would find itself with only 42 seats in Parliament. Opposition parties would hold 45 seats.


In addition to George Yeo, other current ministers who would then have lost their seats include Ng Eng Hen, Josephine Teo, Lim Swee Say, Vivian Balakrishnan, Lui Tuck Yew and K Shanmugam. Two new ministers appointed in 2011 — Heng Swee Keat and Tan Chuan-jin — would not have made it either.

While the next general election is still quite far away, and much can happen between now and then, this should give us some inkling into Singapore’s future. In other words, while we can’t and shouldn’t straight-line project from this result, it underlines how serious the loss in this by-election is.

* * * * *

Lee Li Lian of the Workers’ Party triumphed with 16,038 votes, representing 54.52% of valid votes cast. The PAP’s Koh Poh Koon trailed with 12,856 votes (43.71%). K Jeyaretnam, leader of the Reform Party, and Desmond Lim (Singapore Democratic Alliance) were crushed, with only 363 and 168 votes respectively.

I daresay few people thought Lee Li Lian would win so convincingly. A hard fight was expected, and with it, a slim margin of victory for either the PAP or WP. If few among the commentariat expected this swing, all the more it must come as a shock to the PAP.

Punggol East is a largely middle-class constituency, even if it is entirely HDB “public” housing, with youngish families. Political researchers have noted since the 2006 general election that the middle class was growing sceptical of the PAP; this by-election once again supports this finding.

Into the fray, the PAP put in a somewhat robotic candidate who reminded people of the worst things about the party. Koh Poh Koon was a total unknown parachuted into the ward. He came from the high-income professional class, a fact that was underlined by the quickly-uncovered fact that he owned two cars. To make it worse, he then said to the media that “Well, everybody has a car, we have two — my wife drives one, I drive one. We are both professionals, we need to travel.”

Many voters would have said to themselves: “What the f**k, I need to travel too, but I can’t even afford one car.”

That gaffe confirmed to them that this guy was out of touch. It was the moment too when I told myself, this guy has a real chance of losing the election.

Moreover, look at the way he carried himself in the interview, with an arrogant smirk on his face. He started the campaign with a fixed plastic smile — I noted it the first time he appeared in the media — probably stitched onto his face by his media handlers, but fixed superficial smiles soon give themselves away.

Nor did the photo ops help. They — him riding the local light rail and unclogging drains — ended up making him looking more staged than real.

* * * * *

However, I think the main reason the result went as badly against the PAP was a general unhappiness with the party and government. This is a continuation of the trend since 2006.

There are specific issues, mostly of the bread and butter variety. These include increased job competition from immigration, transport crowding and rising prices. To these, the government had indicated post-GE2011 it was prepared to do some tweaking, but either people thought they hadn’t seen any meaningful results, or they wanted more than tweaking. The pity was that the election didn’t go far into these issues, so it is hard to fathom what people really want.

However, these at least, are technocratic issues amenable to policy correction.

Yet, it is hard to say that on these fronts things have gotten significantly worse since 2011, except maybe accelerating inflation. If the 54% who voted for the PAP in 2011 didn’t think things were bad enough then, why did 10-11% of them choose to change their votes this time?

One suspects therefore that people have just grown more sick of the government, its style and its attitude. And this is something much harder for the PAP to change. The kinds of people it has recruited into its top ranks aren’t going to change their spots overnight, if ever. They may try a larger dose of public relations, but people will see through it as quickly as they saw through Koh Poh Koon’s plastic smile. The only way the party can cure this ill is if it has a thorough change of personnel at the top, but since this would be career suicide for those same heavyweights, well, it just ain’t going to happen.

* * * * *

The Wall Street Journal (Online) carried a voter’s comment in its story (subscription needed):

“For the younger generation, we vote because we want our voices heard in Parliament,” said Stella Ng, a 32-year-old Punggol East resident and IT executive. “We don’t know what the [opposition] can give us, but if you don’t take the leap of faith, you’ll never know.”

So, not only does the election result reflect a growing despair that the PAP would ever hear ordinary citizens, it also shows increasing public trust in the Workers’ Party, not least, in their ability to run town councils. It was a risk for the voters of Aljunied to vote them in in 2011; it will be less and less of a risk in other constituencies from now on.

My table above notwithstanding, the growing strength of the Workers’ Party will put increasing pressure on other opposition parties. The latter will find it increasingly hard to win unless the WP passes up on contesting the same constituencies. Maybe not in 2016, but going by present trends, three-cornered fights will be quite common by 2021. These other parties will need to differentiate themselves policy-wise and do some serious groundwork in their chosen areas.

On the other hand, as I had predicted in the wake of the 2011 general election, the Workers’ Party will be the target of increasing flak. Its electoral success means expectations will rise and its performance scrutinised. As Stella Ng said in the quote above, it is a “leap of faith”. The party has wind behind its back now, but political winds can be fickle.

130 Responses to “PAP suffers 10.83% swing in Punggol East by-election”

  1. 1 MikeZeng 27 January 2013 at 11:51

    Methinks all freedom-loving Sngaporeans have Alex Au to thank for this sweet knock-out punch given to this arrogant and greedy regime. His initiative to expose the Aim saga into a scandal played a significant part in yestedays’s eventuality. Thanks Alex…..keep up the good work! Im rooting for you and hope you will join either WP or NSP or SDP for the next GE2016 ……just 3 years ahead!

  2. 4 yuen 27 January 2013 at 11:53

    whatever the special circumstances, once a seat is lost, in a by-election or as part of a general election, it is very hard for PAP to get it back – the quick recovery of Bukit Gombak and Neesoon was as much due to SDP’s internal quarrel than PAP good campaigning, and Anson/Potong Pasir are the more relevant examples

    the fact that the government announced a whole set of measures to deal with problems people are concerned about, but made no dent in the election result, alone shows how tough a task PAP faces; it can no longer get people on board merely by handing out some goodies, especially people have now got used to physically receiving goodies while psychologically showing defiance by voting opposition

    PAP need to recognize that its grassroots organizations require much rebuilding; in particular, it need to put up candidates that have a strong local history (the lesson of Joo Chiat still need to be learnt) rather than over relying on new faces with successful careers in non-political spheres

    > Workers’ Party will be the target of increasing flak. Its electoral success means expectations will rise and its performance scrutinised.

    that might be so in the long term, but for now smart money and smart people
    will be going its way; joining WP is now an easier path into parliament than entering PAP’s complex selection process, and obviously more promising than going with the other oppositions parties; with adequate supply of campaign funding and candidates, WP will muscle into other electorates in the eastern area for the 2016 election, at the expense of the other parties

    • 5 looes74 27 January 2013 at 19:55

      Well, WP mentions that they are not ready to be in government. Why? Is it the freak result may happen during 2016? Remember of the flight to PAP’s enclave 2 GE ago. Well, perhaps, Alex can look at LDP’s lost to DPJ but swung back again to Shinto Abe’s team

  3. 6 Born and Bred 27 January 2013 at 12:10

    doesnt pap obtaining 49.25% of holland-bukit timah mean the grc going to sdp? if so, then 42 seats for pap, and 45 for the opposition. wp would probably form a coalition with pap, given their contempt for the smaller parties.

    • 7 yawningbread 27 January 2013 at 12:47

      Aargh – how did I miss this?? Yes, you are right, Holland-Bukit Timah would have gone to the SDP. I have corrected the table accordingly.

      That said, this is very hypothetical — we’re still a long way from 2016 and in a general election, we won’t see any by-election effect.

  4. 8 Alan 27 January 2013 at 12:14

    I think equality, fairplay & meritocracy are very important concepts in any election.

    Not that type of lip service fairplay that PAP would like us to believe. Nor that type of appointing one’s own son or one’s own wife type of meritocracy.

    Nor that type of big bullyling tactic of sending lawyer’s letter to silent someone.

  5. 9 Lye Khuen Way 27 January 2013 at 12:16

    Alex, you are right that the swing % must have taken the PAP by surprise.
    Oh yes, did anyone explain why the results took so long ?

    Anyone asked for a recount ?

    Am personally not too sure that the WP will with one more MP in Parliament, be bring up national issues, or will they just go with the flow, as most of us have the impression all these while.

    “Check and Balance” can also mean cheques and bank balances.
    With our new English, as interpreted by the ruling elites here, just which version they care to embrace will be detrimental to our well being.

    • 10 Roy 27 January 2013 at 15:27

      The impression we have of what goes on is dictated by ‘mainstream’ media, which as a rule. has always skewed opinion in the ruling party’s favour. Ask some of the disgruntled journalists who have left their ranks.

  6. 11 Duh 27 January 2013 at 12:17

    Throughout this BE, what amazes me was that the PAP fielded a politically inexperienced candidate in a SMC! I could surmise some reasons for this move:

    (i) Lack of experienced PAP candidates to select. They are really scrapping the bottom of the barrel now. Perhaps there is no barrel even.

    (ii) Poor reading of ground level sentiments – they felt that the majority will still vote for the PAP regardless of who the candidate is just as long as s/he is PAP affiliated. They underestimated the intelligence of the electorate and assume it was the same as before – clearly it is not since the last GE and the PAP still has difficulty accepting this and adapting to it.

    (iii) PAP is giving up and making a lackluster attempt at this BE. If so, next GE will be more telling. This is the ‘we have earned enough millions and extracted enough wealth from Singaporeans, and we don’t seem to be able to do this much longer, so leave while the going is still good’ strategy. You can see this in weak attempts at addressing the people’s concerns like that NatCON – they are preparing for their exit and performing perfunctory remedial acts in the meantime.

    • 12 looes74 27 January 2013 at 19:52

      Because they expect to lose but perhaps, PAP has acheived the objective. Stop Kenneth Jeyaratnam from coming in. Second, it can work both ways. Remember Nee Soon Central & Bukit Gombak campaign long long time ago

      By the way, do you know that Obama only get 50.2% votes while confronting an idoitic Romney

      • 13 yawningbread 27 January 2013 at 22:10

        I disagree. The PAP fought to win; they didn’t expect to lose. If they really expected to lose, they would not send in Lee Hsien Loong to speak at the rally. Because now, **he** looks like a loser, unable to turn the tide around.

      • 14 Fox 27 January 2013 at 22:59

        I’m not sure if the PAP fought to win. They didn’t bring out all the big guns or the more popular MPs. It is noticeable who didn’t campaign on behalf of KPK. These would be the people to watch.

    • 15 Fox 27 January 2013 at 22:56

      I don’t think that there was a poor reading of ground level sentiments. Actually, they probably anticipated a very hard fight, Hence, the lack of experienced PAP candidates to step up to the plate. There are a lot of former PAP MPs who could have filled the seat for an interim 3 years if they knew that it was a sure-win seat.

      These people are no fools.

    • 16 Duh 28 January 2013 at 02:46

      Sending PAP bigwigs to help rally support behind their candidate can be an indicator that PAP is expecting to lose and hence the last minute panic; they have used this strategy before – Chengsan is the prime example.

      • 17 yuen 28 January 2013 at 13:24

        but they won Chengsan; the big difference between then and now is they no longer indicate “you will lose this/that if you vote us out”; so people are emboldened – they take the little gifts you hand out with one hand, and vote against you with the other

        in other words, LHL tries to be “nicer” than LKY, but people are not motivated by niceness; it would seem here at least fear is more effective as motivator

      • 18 Duh 28 January 2013 at 17:48

        @yuen, you have a poor memory and forgot the method by which Chengsan was won… at that time, if PAP didn’t resort to the usual legal dirty tricks, I can assure you, Chengsan and not Aljunied, would be the first opposition ward. And also, why was it joined into AMK (LHL’s) constituency later?

        Shortly after Chengsan (GE97), Tan Liang Hong and JB (who both contested as the WP team in Chengsan) were both sued to be politically neutered.

        Your argument is also flawed and present a pseudo forced choice – just because being nice doesn’t win elections, it doesn’t imply that one should use fear. People want a MP who can address their concerns effectively not someone who ignores, berates, belittle and threaten them at every opportunity – this is what the current electorate will not tolerate and how the PAP cannot understand and adapt to.

      • 19 yuen 29 January 2013 at 11:20

        you confirmed what I said: in the Chengsan election and afterwards they used fear, and it seemed to work; since then they tried to be nice, and the result…

    • 20 Anon f77S 28 January 2013 at 15:05

      The 10% swing effect is a little inflated and can’t be applied evenly to other constituencies. As mentioned in the blog entry, Punggol East comprises of a relatively young demographic. Ruling party is quite cognizant of this and hence its existence as a single seat constituency. Based on the information gleaned from the comments, it seems what the PAP had going against it was:

      1) Anti-incumbent voter confluence instead of vote dilution, against PAP favour.
      2) A demotivated campaign team due to less-than-stellar handling of Palmer’s resignation.
      3) Poor timing on the part of Palmer’s indiscretion.

      The likelihood of PAP losing more vote in the next election seems certain. Somewhere in the range of 3 to 8 percentage points depending on the constituency is quite plausible.

      • 21 Anon 89de 29 January 2013 at 01:27

        I believe their ground feedback is that there will be a 4 or more corner fight. This favours them, and probably thought a walk in the park. Therefore, call for bi-election.
        Halfway, SDP pulled out and fresh ground feedback that there’s trouble. Quickly launch Plan B, ie, goodies. Pull out all stops. LHL goes to rally.
        Feedback can also be wrong for WP. They thought it is a tough fight based on ground feedback but results show otherwise
        The only one who had groundfeedback right is SDP!

      • 22 yawningbread 30 January 2013 at 00:17

        Interesting last sentence. The other night, I asked around a roomful of people who foresaw the scale of Li Lian’s victory. Someone said he did. I gave him a look that kind of said: It’s easy for you to say now, with hindsight. He said he had HARD DATA from a professionally-run survey conducted a few days before the election campaign started. Then he showed me the results of the opinion survey. It clearly indicated a solid win for the opposition. And yes, that guy was from SDP.

        I was impressed. They knew better than anyone what was about to happen!

      • 23 Chow 30 January 2013 at 12:58

        “I was impressed. They knew better than anyone what was about to happen!”

        Given that Chee Soon Juan has a background in Psychology, I’m not surprised that he’d know how to employ surveys such as the one you saw to best effect. Research in psychology does also involve quite a fair bit of data collection through surveys. If the SDP did commission such a survey and was cognizant of the fact that the WP did not have such data and was thinking it a tough fight, then it might explain Chee’s strange proposal of them doing the ‘tough’ work of campaigning and getting a candidate into parliament while WP could do the ‘easy’ town council management. At some point, maybe WP and SDP had a good talk and cut some deals on territorial issues and then the SDP pulled out. Maybe.

        At any rate, this is an interesting development in our political scene. It spells the start of the use of Big Data and highly targetted campaigning. Remember Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight blog and how he predicted, with great accuracy, the number of electoral colleges going to Obama despite all the Fox surveys coming from Faux News and Karl Rove? Well, the ante has just been upped, I believe. We are, indeed, headed for interesting times.

  7. 24 DustyP 27 January 2013 at 12:35

    Whereas the projected figures using 2011 results see a “Leveling of the Playing Field “in Parliament, it may be that if the slide continues, we will see a further erosion of the PAP vote, after all this swing took place in 19 months, we still have 40 months (approximately) before the GE in 2016!

    • 25 looes74 27 January 2013 at 19:59

      The playing field here is pretty level. If you don’t believe me go up north across causeway, see how level playing field it’s

      • 26 ff 27 January 2013 at 22:19

        According to your analogy because other countries with a lot of daily murder case and Singapore with lesser murder cases, Singapore is considered crime-free?

      • 27 Yolo 28 January 2013 at 14:08

        I believe DustyP’s version of “leveling the playing field” is in reference to the increase in number of opposition MPs in parliament and if you take a look at the Dewan Rakyat, up north, 73 out of 222 MPs are from the Pakatan Rakyat with 137 from BN. So yes actually you’ve just shot yourself in the foot and further demonstrated that theirs is a more level playing field when it comes to parliamentary numbers with a higher proportion of opposition representation.

        While we’re on that thought, why don’t we compare with other commonwealth states which have inherited the Westminster system? Why don’t we take our bearing from the UK then?

        My point is that taking another country as a point of comparison is a race to the bottom. We will always be better than other countries in some aspects and far worse in other areas. The fulcrum through which we measure how level the playing field is through domestic factors expressed by the electorate and opposition parties – not comparative politics.

  8. 28 harry 27 January 2013 at 12:42

    I agree with u that the biggest problem for the pap is the mindset and attitude of those at the top. I don’t see how they can change without changing the top players. Eventually some within the party will see this. After the passing of strongman Lee Kuan Yew, we should see some interesting internal fireworks within the PAP. Singapore politics is getting more interesting.

    • 29 Anon H7cx 27 January 2013 at 20:03

      Agree. To me they think they are smarter than the rest. So what…. your attitude pukes and I rather be poor than swallow my pride before an arrognat person.

  9. 30 henry 27 January 2013 at 12:58

    WP style is nonabrasive yet effective in challenging the status quo. What ever changes that come about is entirely left to the PAP and their response will elicit yet another nonabrasive feedback. I like this. Its not fiery but the WP says what needs to be said. I believe this irks the PAP the most since they cannot respond too harshly.

    The PAP does not know how to handle this style. They are too accustomed to using a bat and whack!. ( something that Dr Chee seems to get baited without fail)To adopt a co-operative stance is an admission of fault and in error… which they will never accede. This is advantages to the WP.

    They have lost the plot and have gone off tangent. Faith and sincerity have been eroded over a long period of time caused by arrogant remarks and insincere tones.

    2016 is not far away. its just 3 years to go. What can they possibly do within that time? Give out national bonus? more vouchers? open new train lines? lower COE? free parking? All wonderful yet it suggests a quick fix with the aim of getting votes. We are not buying that anymore ( of course we will not reject it either!!).

    Some action steps for them:

    1) Encourage diversity of views through all media
    2) Allow WP to represent labour in the NTUC

    Then again its wishful thinking. Its ok… I will vote in 2016… no more signals.
    They seem to ignore the signals anyway.

    Its a fantastic day to go out and celebrate with the WP!

  10. 31 Perry 27 January 2013 at 13:02

    LTK and the WP have a nice game plan.”We don’t criticize for the sake of criticizing, we do not destabilize the government and we speak up when necessary”. In other words wait for the government to screw up as it always will. After this victory they should build up their policy-making arm or hire the SDP for that (tongue in cheek). The MIW should take note of the vocal, passionate and open support the WP has generated. That’s the base. That’s what you cultivate. The PAP had this at one time. Now, in truth, I doubt their voters can be considered a base. People who stick with you while resentful, and having no other choice, sounds like a bad marriage. You know what happens to that.

  11. 32 Thor 27 January 2013 at 13:11

    Singaporeans have been used to the unequaled power of the PAP. While many would like to see a greater opposition participation in parliament, I dare say most aren’t ready to accept a scenario where the PAP’s rein of power is seriously threatened.

    With the latest win Punggol East, the number of opposition seats against PAP is 7 to 80. The PAP still commands a staggering 92% of the seats. If I’m not wrong, this is lowest percentage share the PAP has secured since gaining power.

    If this percentage continues to drop, it will come to a point where people who would otherwise have voted for the opposition might change course and vote for the PAP, even if it weren’t that popular. It’s like a stock that has met a resistance price that’s very difficult to break.

    Against that backdrop, the Workers Party needs to work even harder to show that not only can it manage town councils well, it is also an effective check against the PAP. It needs to show that greater number of opposition MPs translates into better polices for Singapore.

    Otherwise, its usefulness and purpose in parliament will be doubted and voters will be less likely to vote more of them in in coming elections.

    • 33 Roy 28 January 2013 at 15:04

      This fear of not having the PAP in power has been instilled in the electorate over four decades through their control of ‘mainstream media’. Are you saying that Singapore will collapse and disappear if the PAP goes? Of course not. Life goes on. When your parents pass away are you helpless? You find a way as everyone does, to survive. No one and no political party is indispensable. We create solutions to life’s challenges whatever they may be, it’s a natural instinct, so don’t be deluded by those in power who tell you that you are useless without them.

    • 34 cydonian 29 January 2013 at 17:50

      Don’t forget that the GRC’s get counted together. So a drop, if there is, won’t be gradual, but will be quantized and jump in multiples of four or six, after a minimum of eight seats (SMC’s)

      Also, these things generally have a momentum of their own; once the dominoes start tumbling (in any political sphere), they tend to get a life of their own. In fact, I daresay the WP’s vote-share already shows some of that Capital M Momentum.

  12. 35 Anon w3TW 27 January 2013 at 13:24

    The advice for the opposition is to get prepared fast. Your time of opposition could be ending. You could be the ruling, eh, eh, serving party very soon.

    Don’t shy away from running the government. LKY, Toh Chin Chye & Goh KS took over with very little experience.

  13. 36 The 27 January 2013 at 13:51

    /// I daresay few people thought Lee Li Lian would win so convincingly. ///

    I did. My forecast was 55% for WP and less than 1% for Kenneth. A bit off though. KJ did slightly better than I thought.

  14. 37 someone 27 January 2013 at 13:56

    Even though it is early, I would like to bring rationality into thinking of those who support opposition. Opposition/shifting of power is undoubtedly much needed relief for citizens. As part of another country, we indeed wrested lot of hope that opposition would do wonders. But the moment opposition gained power, it indeed parroted the same sentiments, carried on same atrocious policies and morphed into one that was exactly similar to then ruling government. In order to see a vibrant democracy similar to USA, it would be several decades, but nonetheless the recent byelection gives a tiny hope that such moment is possible with a generation.

    • 38 eremarf 28 January 2013 at 00:46

      Sorry please enlighten me how the USA is “a vibrant democracy”? Two party duopolies (due to FPTP voting systems) are bad too. And USA is more of one dollar one vote than one man one vote, isn’t it? (in a nutshell)

    • 39 cydonian 29 January 2013 at 17:57

      I just mentioned this in a previous comment, but I’ll say it again: these things tend to pick up their own momentum’s. In fact, I’ll argue that the PAP is already losing mindshare faster than the WP can gain the lost mindshare as votes.

      Put simply, WP is in a position to pick their battles, both geographically and in terms of issues. Once you get to choose your battles, you have a home-team advantage.

  15. 40 Anon jf74 27 January 2013 at 14:12

    The fact that an established candidate like dr Koh could not win a poly grad, tells us that the electorate is not looking only at the credentials of the candidate, a proud point which Lky has always been quick to bring out to discredit the opposition.

    I am also heartened that more and more outstanding individuals with good conscious and courage are standing out to speak against the PAP.

    Things Alex for putting up this table. It will really make the PAP think hard (we can be sure they are reading you blog!!) on whether they can still retain the power by next GE!!

    • 41 yawningbread 27 January 2013 at 14:19

      This highlights another part of the PAP’s disconnect. They’re still in the mode of thinking that the correct model is a Confucian society, i.e. one where academic and professional qualifications mark out good leaders, and — more importantly — that people will tend to look up to such persons. This attitude has long since degenerated into elitism, but the PAP still doesn’t get it.

      • 42 The 27 January 2013 at 14:34

        Whereas the man in the street will look at the high-falutin PAP candidate as another leech that will take away millions of tax-payers money per year while rubbing him by asking “how much do you want? You want 3 meals in a restaurant, a food court or a hawker centre?”

      • 43 Fox 28 January 2013 at 12:35

        I’m not sure about that hypothesis you put forward, Alex. Tin Pei Ling, who did not fit the typical PAP candidate mould, did not fare particularly well in the last election and cost Goh Chok Tong’s GRC team quite a lot of votes.

      • 44 yawningbread 28 January 2013 at 15:54

        Tin Pei Ling does fit the same mould. Remember her Kate Spade bag? Moreover, how does anyone know which member of the Marine Parade GRC team cost the team votes?

      • 45 Hazeymoxy 28 January 2013 at 16:06

        How? Why? I remember a comment that you made in one of your posts – that perhaps LHL isn’t being fed the right kind of information about the public (something like that). It’s astonishing. How can they not know? SG is so small, so uniform. It’s so easy to read the ground. The mind boggles.

    • 46 Soojenn 27 January 2013 at 22:07

      “The fact that an established candidate like dr Koh could not win a poly grad, tells us that the electorate is not looking only at the credentials of the candidate, a proud point which Lky has always been quick to bring out to discredit the opposition.”

      Most of the people who voted for Lee Li Lian probably have similar background like hers….not dr koh eprhaps

      • 47 Fox 28 January 2013 at 13:27

        That is unlikely to be true. The post-GE IPS survey in May 2011 [1] showed that higher socio-economic status (SES) is correlated with support for non-PAP candidates. People who are more like KPK (at least in terms of SES) are less likely to vote for PAP.

        The WP victory in Punggol East, which has a higher than national average proportion of 5-room HDB households, supports this trend.

        It’s quite obvious that Joo Chiat, East Coast and Holland-Bukit TImah would be next in WP’s sight in 2016. It would be interesting to see if WP would muscle its way into Holland-Bukit Timah since it has been ‘choped’ by SDP.


  16. 48 Desmond Ong 27 January 2013 at 14:21

    The 10% swing should be only a WP specific swing.

    RP and SDA will not have positive swing. So the analogy for all the election results from GE 2011 is flawed.

    And it is too generic and simplistic to extrapolate this swing into a GE, where fearmongering of you might vote the entire PAP out of power might have some scare tactic effect.

    But it’s great that this analysis was made.

  17. 49 ;ABC 27 January 2013 at 14:22

    Alex, on your point about the people recruited into the PAP`s governing elite I suggest you google the resumes of the Ministers and other senior officials.Nearly all have served under the PM at some stage of their careers. Personal loyalty seems to carry a premium.( Where are the GCT loyalists?).In this situation can one expect any fundamental change in mindset?

  18. 54 Rogueeconomist 27 January 2013 at 14:42

    I’m sure there were plenty of local candidates available to the PAP from the local Punggol branch. Those are the people who actually are doing all the constituency work on a day to day basis anyway. Why weren’t they selected?

    It has been suggested that branch activists typically don’t get selected by the PAP because they don’t fit the ‘elite’ mold. That is one reason.

    However, another reason is that I suspect the PAP leadership is actively trying to prevent their own politicians from amassing a power base anywhere in the island. Why? Because they do not want the risk of any PAP politicians deciding to have a go of it on their own (or with another party) by defecting and taking their grassroots supporters with them.

    Evidence for this includes the re-shuffling of some PAP politicians from locale to locale between elections and the consistent picking of newcomer elites to stand for election as outsiders to the district. Newcomers who will be completely beholden to the central party leadership for political support and direction.

    The same concerns will arise for the WP one day soon, assuming that the leadership wants to keep the same tight control over their MPs as the PAP does over theirs.

    Is this model good for Singapore? I don’t know. But I am concerned that it lessens the representativeness of politics in Singapore. We get the politicians that each party’s leaders select for us, not the politicians which the people might have wanted.

    • 55 ;ABC 27 January 2013 at 16:59

      You are absolutely right. Control is the key. LKY has said “I play for keeps”.His son obviously agrees. LKY`s belief in the “i appoint you and you appoint me” policy is the genesis of all the ills you allude to. In a properly functioning democracy the PM would have been forced to quit as happened to Tony Blair and Julia Gillard`s predecessor, provided of course there is someone with the political base and clout to make the challenge. Didn`t LKY admit that he removed Ong Pang Boon and Toh Chin Chye because he feared that they would oppose his plans for political succession? Then there is a belief that GCT and his loyalists have been purged?.You check – how many of the present leaders have served under the PM before being drafted into politics? Do you get the picture?

    • 56 looes74 27 January 2013 at 20:21

      So you are insinuating that PAP actually wanted to lose Aljunied GRC or Punggol East SMC

      • 57 Rogueeconomist 28 January 2013 at 11:56

        Of course not. But they don’t want to win at the expense of being able to keep a tight rein on their MPs either. Suppose a bunch of PAP MPs decide to walk out on the PAP before the next GE and attempt to ‘defect’ to the WP. Would the WP accept them? I don’t think so. Same thing for the reverse, even if ‘star’ candidates like CSM ask to join the PAP. Both the WP and PAP have shown that they value centralized control. Why gain a seat at the expense of possibly losing your entire party later? This is in stark contrast to the smaller parties who are playing revolving chairs with their candidates.

        Yes, all this could change and the PAP could dig more into their ranks of party activists to fill the candidate roster. But I doubt that will happen. Most party activists just don’t fit what the PAP is looking for in terms of candidates. Besides, we also have to keep in mind that when the PAP does field a less than overqualified candidate, they do get mocked for it mercilessly (having set up expectations that all PAP candidates must be super elite). So they are now backed into a corner.

      • 58 yawningbread 28 January 2013 at 15:59

        Could you please not use the term “party activists” with respect to PAP members? “Party passivists” may be more appropriate. They do as they are told; they tend to tell their higher-ups what the latter want to hear.

  19. 59 yearningbreath 27 January 2013 at 14:46

    A sad day for Singapore as the blue PAP garners another seat in parliament and further entrenches the rule of the white PAP.

    • 60 Yournameislame 27 January 2013 at 15:18

      A sad day for readers as another anonymous poster comments rhetoric nonsense and further entrenches their stupidity. Got a point? Make it and back it up.

      • 61 yearningbreath 27 January 2013 at 16:16

        Who was it who mocked the “million-dollar salaries” of government ministers during GE2011 only to propose more of the same once they entered into parliament? Who was it who campaigned for the nationalisation of public transport but have since become silent on this particular manifesto policy, at a time when train breakdowns continue unabated?

        I suppose we can’t really blame WP for their lacklustre performance in parliament thus far. There’s always a risk of being sued for defamation when one proposes radical ideas such as lowering ministerial salaries and nationalising public transport. There are few things more belligerent and “confrontational” in Singapore politics than opposing the policies of the incumbent.

  20. 62 singaporean 27 January 2013 at 14:47

    Given spoilt votes can be 1% or more, 49% is a winning percentage. Not to mention I doubt other parties can enjoy the full swing the WP branding brings.But it does set the stage for the next election. WP needs to be rid of the uncooperative image and should build an alliance with the two winnable parties: SPP and NSP. SPP should do a joint bid with WP while NSP should be rewarded by being left alone. Meanwhile the new battleground for WP should be Pasir Ris Punggol, given its demographic similarities with Punggol East. Coupled with incompetence of SDA, I expect a WP bid here to result in a 15% swing, minimum.

    • 63 changeisneeded22 28 January 2013 at 16:29

      Well said, singaporean…

      I voted for NSP last GE (Marine Parade), although they lost, they did reasonably well. Being a sensible and responsible party with good candidates, I believe they will make a break-thru’ in the next GE. So I hope WP will not come to my GRC and let NSP have a straight fight with PAP, even if WP come to contest, I will still give my vote to NSP.

      I do hope to see WP in Pasir Ris Punggol, their winning chances are very high (SDA is of no threat at all in fact SDA should dissolve) and I think many will want to see that arrorgant and useless DPM beaten.

  21. 64 A Sim 27 January 2013 at 14:59

    I saw the PAP conference after the by election chaired by TCH. It was a complete disappointment to see how he handled the journalists. When asked several times, he did not provide anything beyond what the PM said int he press release earlier. Having seen this, I really have doubts on his leadership ability. I believe someone who is truly a leader will express their views during adversities.

    Sad case 😦

  22. 65 Full House 27 January 2013 at 15:03

    Every time a minister or PAP MP officiates an event or some such, it’s surrounded by bodyguards, minders and grassroots volunteers.

    The people who are at the event to welcome them are likely to be very pro-PAP uncles and aunties or children from schools or the elderly from community centres. So what they see is not the real heartlanders, so they are deluded into thinking everything is fine and they are well-liked.

  23. 66 Sam 27 January 2013 at 15:06

    It’s like a game of Risk. WP will likely consolidate their efforts in the east and take on East Coast GRC, Moulmien-Kallang GRC, Joo Chiat SMC and Seng Kang West SMC in GE2016, just like they did in GE2011. Nee Soon GRC may be sacrificed in order to consolidate their efforts for Tampines GRC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Teo Chee Hean and Mah Bow Tan better start pulling up their socks come 2016 and Baey should keep his comments to himself from now.

    • 67 yuen 27 January 2013 at 16:33

      > East Coast GRC, Moulmien-Kallang GRC, Joo Chiat SMC and Seng Kang West

      I think more than that; they will try to push into Marine Parade and Pasir Ris, even at the risk of causing 3-corner fights, in which WP expects former supporters of the other opposition parties to defect because they see WP as being more likely to win and casting otherwise would just “waste” their votes

  24. 68 Kenny Chong 27 January 2013 at 15:12

    The WP is actually very clever in terms of their campaigning tactics. Most of the criticisms they levelled at the ruling party are fundamentally head-I-win-tail-you-lose. Take grassroots support for instance. Maintaining the status quo would create more resentment, while liberating PA from PAP’s control would strengthen WP wards even further. When WP’s recommendations in parliament are ignored, they tell voters that is why we need even more opposition. When their ideas are adopted in policy changes, they say the government is finally listening and they should do even more. Paternity leave is a recent case in point. This is the kind of street-smart politics unseen in the white camp, who is very often seen as being too careful, too non-committal, too bureacratic, everything must wait for PM to decide. At times they tried to be cheeky but it bombed out in their own faces. TCH and KBW immediately comes to mind.

  25. 69 ts 27 January 2013 at 15:12


    I don’t think PAP leadership is afraid of any PAP politicians deciding to leave PAP and run against them. I think they are more afraid that with strong grass-root support, some of them might actually be able to challenge the core PAP leadership. Notice how most of the MPs are just recruited to tend the lawn …

    • 70 Rogueeconomist 27 January 2013 at 22:19

      Yes, I think that’s a plausible alternative as well. Not having any political power base of their own strongly discourages PAP MPs from, well…. engaging in politics. 🙂

      Well, we will see. There are plenty of almost-picked PAP candidates hanging out there. Perhaps they will get it into their heads to join the WP, you never know. There is still a general lack of talent willing to join politics in Singapore (in ANY camp, PAP or opposition) so anything that will make people step up and serve will be nice.

  26. 71 JW 27 January 2013 at 15:23

    I do wonder though, by 2016, how many % of the new migrants would’ve been converted to citizens and will almost certainly vote for their benefactors?

    And how will that dilute the votes and statistics we see now?

  27. 72 PAP Bucket List 27 January 2013 at 16:37

    1. Stop the infux of foreigners and review those still working here.
    2. Slash 50% off salaries of top tier civil servants.
    3. Double the salaries of the low wage earners.
    4. Reduce Public Health Care services by half followed by reviews.
    5. Remove land cost for public housing projects.
    6. HDB lessees should not be charged property tax.
    7. Remove COE and allow each family one entitlement.
    8. Employment priority for Singaporean first.
    9. Remove GST on basic food supplies and essential services.

    etc, etc

  28. 74 Thor 27 January 2013 at 16:40

    I too believe that it’s difficult for a leopard to change its spots. This was apparent from both the statement of LHL and the PAP press conference. It was the by election effect they attributed the loss to rather than any acknowledgement that Singaporeans are genuinely upset and frustrated with both policy and the political hegemony and the lack of a voice or representation. Real power can only be wrought at the ballot box. I too second the request for capable and articulate people like Alex to come forward to writing the next chapter of the singapore story. I look forward to Alex taking on VB in the holland village GRC and watching if VB makes use of sexual orientation again in the political campaign. It might be a loss of a significant neutral voice, but a gain for Singapore.

  29. 75 Richard Chua 27 January 2013 at 17:23

    An Open Posting to Blogger Mr Alex Au

    Re: PAP suffers 10.83% swing in Punggol East by-election, published on Yawning Bread, written by Alex Au.

    I am concerned about the signals and connotation communicated to Singaporeans (and other readers on the internet) in blogger Alex Au’s example in superimposing percentage figure 10.83% into the results of Singapore’s 2011 General Elections.

    My following question is predicated on the basic rule in statistical analysis: Fairness (apple-for-apple) : an element which I have failed to see in the example in his posting, from which he has based his analysis on.

    Electors of Punggol-East do not represent the views of all Singaporeans.

    I understand that his analysis is a hypothesis. Hypotheses are predicated on valid questions.

    Could Mr Alex Au explain why he has chosen to use 10.83% to superimpose it on the results of 2011 General Elections? In addition, could Mr Alex Au explain what his initial question was leading to his choice of such a case-study for the hypothetical evaluation?



    • 76 jimmy 27 January 2013 at 23:40

      @ richard chua

      can we then call it extrapolation by plotting the swing (I know I know from PE) onto a past referenced result. scientific or not scientific, apple for apple comparison or not, it becomes history the moment it is published just like any financial statement, and mind you it is unlikely to reflect (you are just plain lucky if you can get it right) accurately any bit of the voters’ future intended move which is forever shifting subject to their day to day personal circumstances.

      but it sure gives you some academic satisfaction in going through whatever analytical and statistical scenarios that one may indulge.

    • 77 Alan 28 January 2013 at 01:41

      Is Richard from the PAP internet brigade to ask questions in this arrogant manner of speaking ?

    • 78 please lah 28 January 2013 at 10:45

      Please lah.. this is his blog. He can write whatever he wants. There is no need to explain anything. Maybe you read too much SPH anal-ysis. Not happy just leave. You sound so naive, Richard.

      • 79 changeisneeded22 28 January 2013 at 16:49

        Agree with please lah. This is Alex’s blog and he can write whatever he wants and if you are not happy, don’t waste time visit his blog, instead, go and write whatever your master loves to hear on his facebook and whatever and help him win back votes in the next GE.

        Very naive, Richard, really.

    • 80 Chow 28 January 2013 at 17:32

      @richard: Not sure I understand you here. In general, a hypothesis (in science) is an explanation that needs to be tested (i.e falsified). In reality, this is never so because you can only test the hypothesis finite number of times so after a certain number of confirmations (by different persons), the hypothesis is often accepted as ‘true’ until something shows it up.

      A hypothesis need not necessarily be based on valid statements, just reasoned statements… well, not even reasoned statements because that’s why we test them. We often make reasoned statements to base our hypothesis on otherwise no one is going to take our hypothesis seriously. For example, the hypothesis that “Apollo draws the sun across the sky behind a chariot” is a valid hypothesis that was probably based on very reasonable reasons at the time it was proposed. It’s just not true (except metaphorically) anymore.

      Going by what you’ve written, I guess your main point is not so much the testability of the scenario put forward but rather: “Why does Mr Au use 10.83% to propose an imaginary GE2011 scenario whereby every GRC/SMC swings 10.83% to the Opposition? That’s unreasonable because Punggol East is not representative of the population.” That’s fair enough a question but regardless of whose side anyone is on, I’d like to point out that there is no ‘science’ here to test hypothesis because the figures here is used in an illustrative sense i.e. he is using the imaginary scenario to illustrate his point that the PAP’s hold on power is getting rather tenuous based on so on and so forth.

      One may, of course, ask: “Is it possible that such a swing may occur in a General Election?” We may speculate and we may even apply some mathematical models to do some predictions but ultimately, it really lies in how the PAP and the other parties shape their policies and tap into the mood of the people.

      • 81 Chow 28 January 2013 at 17:51

        As Jimmy mentioned earlier, if you really want to indulge in a more scientific and rigorous study, then you have to frame the question in the right way so that you know how to extract the relevant data.

        As an example, the hypothesis: “Is there a level of discomfort felt by the population that leads to a large swing in votes” is something more amenable to a scientific discovery and, if that doesn’t quite satisfy you, you may follow up with (if the above hypothesis is true): “The swing of votes is described by a nonlinear equation {Insert your complex equation here}”. In the first case, you can design a questionnaire and define certain things you want to measure. You can design smaller experiments to refine your hypothesis and work on past data or collect future data as they come along. But that’s really not what this article is driving at as far as I understand it.

      • 82 Richard Chua 29 January 2013 at 01:33

        @Chow: First and foremost, thank you for your reply. I reflected upon your explanation on the construction of hypotheses in science, and compared with how they are formulated in my field in social sciences, which is similar. I re-read Alex’s posting again. I realised that I have missed his qualification:

        “While the next general election is still quite far away, and much can happen between now and then, this should give us some inkling into Singapore’s future. In other words, while we can’t and shouldn’t straight-line project from this result, it underlines how serious the loss in this by-election is.”

        Thank you for highlighting this to me.

        However, on first reading, one tends to not fully understand Alex’s position. My concern is predicated on the extend Alex’s text could influence people’s opinion, for many people do read Yawning Bread and take his views seriously.

        To me, the word “superimpose” might not be a good choice for the blog post. Nonetheless, I respect Alex’s choice. As a reader, I have failed to understand clearly his position. To a certain extent, failure in reading might be a fault of mine. However, I urge Alex to consider the choice of words.

        If many people had misunderstood his position, then the posting might not achieve its intention. It might not be as constructive as it should have been.

        In 2011, Singaporeans have made their choice. The results stayed. Likens to the decision made by Punggol-East electors over the weekend, WP has been elected to the seat in Parliament. To superimpose the latter on the former might question the integrity of the results of the 2011 GE.

        Lastly, thank you everybody for your comments. I take them humbly.

        It is usually with “naivety” I first read blog postings, like most of the people online. In raising questions to these postings, I get new information to increase my knowledge.



  30. 83 Dom Su 27 January 2013 at 17:41

    But you can recreate the by-election effect by going after only less than half of the constituencies on nomination day. That technically means that the government is decided on nomination day and voters are free to support alternative parties. The danger however is that the PAP candidates from the uncontested wards will then be free to help out in the contested constituencies. I am not sure which will be a bigger effect. Maybe this could be a basis for a future study?

    • 84 Justin 28 January 2013 at 10:57

      You don’t seem to know the electoral history of Singapore well *no offence meant* but the opposition tried that in 2006. Which backfired coz then PAP concentrated all their resources against the few wards that were contested. Better to contest everything, make them do rallies everywhere.. walk the ground everywhere.

  31. 85 Linda 27 January 2013 at 19:32

    I lost my job to a Brit while supporting them, will I continue to do so?

  32. 86 Patrick Chai 27 January 2013 at 19:35

    Strong signal to the PAP to take more drastic action to bring policies that benefit its voters. Be humble. Stop sending legal threats to casual comments. Be more receptive to critics. Bring cost down for local SMEs. Do a check list. Boot out those that parachute in.

  33. 87 kampong boy 27 January 2013 at 20:06

    wow, i read a lot of sensible minded analysis by many capable minded people here. lots of talent still available out there to shape our nation, Alex being one. This is the Singapore that I am proud of.

  34. 88 George 27 January 2013 at 21:28

    I don’t buy the ‘by-election effect’
    that DPM Teo and Minister Ng have used to excuse their party for the drubbing by the WP in the PE BE.

    If you take this reasoning/excuse for the defeat by the WP to its logical conclusion, they are in fact saying that the voters of Singapore in general are somehow miraculously (through mental telepathy?)
    able to collectively and cooperatively vote in such a way that the PAP would still form the govt (their preference) in spite of being also at the same time being put in more opposition voices in parliament! Tell me, how is this possible?

    How is it possible for the general population to coordinate and vote in such a way that ensures a PAP govt but with lots of opposition for check and balance in parliament?

    IMO, the truth is that it is purely spontaneous, coincidental and completely random that it had happened, as there is no way that the people can ‘parkat’ as a single like-minded entity to vote in this manner. Which also means to me that the PAP can very well lose its majority even as early as GE2016 – the ‘freak’ election result that prompted LKY to threaten previously ‘to send the army in’ should this ever happened – if its prevailing style of governance remains unchanged.

    But, surely and inevitably, if the PAP govt continues unrepentant to behave and govern in the manner it have been doing and still, when I last look, is, then the PAP has only itself to blame (and fully deserving it) should and when it finds itself one day on the other side of the house in parliament after a GE. Perhaps, PM Lee would call in the Gurkha contingent to prop up his govt?

    • 89 The Pariah 27 January 2013 at 23:37

      @ George: Agree with you that it is NOT “by-election” effect at all. Pay And Profit (PAP) are claiming that either to save face or are genuinely ostrich-like in self-denial.

      I salute Punggol East WP voters – May many more Singaporeans follow their lead in next GE and put in Opposition MPs to fill-up 1/3 of Parliament as part of the public institutional checks-and-balances. We sorely need that “insurance”.

      PAP’s unsaid pressing political agenda is to neuter Native Singaporeans with Naturalized Singaporeans before next two GEs.

      Before 2025 (in next 1.5 decades), Singaporeans will pay the price of past 3 decades of PAP policy mis-steps:

      – If 8-10 million population: Suffer job insecurity or under-employment and intense competition for healthcare, transport, housing, education amidst entrenched inflation;

      – If 6mn population: Suffer CPF erosion and public/private housing market crash.

    • 90 blunter 28 January 2013 at 01:32

      “I don’t buy the ‘by-election effect’
      that DPM Teo and Minister Ng have used to excuse their party for the drubbing by the WP in the PE BE. ”

      did anyone take note that by using by-election effect as a excuse for losing the by-election, PAP is also opening up the can of worms that explain that past by-elections is not held in the past in 1980s and 1990s because PAP know they will lost the election.

      Is PAP shooting themselves in the foot again with such reason ?

      • 91 yawningbread 28 January 2013 at 10:17

        Erm. . . by-elections were held in the 1980s and 1990s. What you may be thinking of is the death of an MP from Jurong GRC. There was a debate whether a by-election should be held and the govt argued that the constitution does not mandate one in a GRC since there are other MPs still around for the same ward.

    • 92 Gazebo 28 January 2013 at 07:26

      no, thats the wrong way to look at the issue. the By-Election effect is that on the margin, the voter is more likely to vote for an opposition, than if he/she at a General Election. let me ground this via an illustration. suppose the true pro-opposition level is 55%. however, in a General Election, the people are also affected by fear of too much upheaval in the government. as a result, that level may be moderated to 45% i.e. 1 in 10 previously pro opposition voter becomes swayed to vote for PAP. whereas in a By-Election, this moderating effect isn’t present.

  35. 93 Wei Meng 27 January 2013 at 22:02

    I find the hypothetical results interesting, because that opens the possibility of a coalition government of PAP with one of the smaller opposition parties. PAP-SPP perhaps?

  36. 94 alvin 27 January 2013 at 22:36

    Amidst all the focus on national issues and continued discontentment with the PAP, I just wanted to give my 2 cents worth that the WP’s ground campaign quite possibly played a very significant role in the result.

    The WP deployed what is still essentially a small team of about 80-100 activists and volunteers effectively and scrupulously covered the ground in PE comprehensively. For all the online activity, parliamentary speeches, policy papers and even fiery rallies that political parties may stage, there is a vast portion of the SG electorate that can only be effectively reached by face-to-face, door-to-door grassroots campaigning. It’s also probably somewhat reflective of the premium that a sizeable portion of the Sg population places on personalities and ‘trust and confidence’ politics.

    The WP, in keeping with LTK’s flavour of heartland politics, is the only party that has taken ground campaigns seriously and put in place a machinery that has racked up more and more experience in executing a ground campaign with each election campaign. The party’s recruitment also seems to value ‘personal touch’ and ‘connect-ability’ as qualities in its potential candidates, and arguable more importantly, activists and ordinary members, something that both the PAP and other major parties like the SDP and NSP have not managed as well. Other parties would do well to take a page from the LTK book of Singapore political campaigning.

    To coin James Carville’s well-known election saying to the Singaporean context, “It’s the ground campaign stupid!”.

    On the PAP side, I thought Ravi Philemon’s FB note earlier today captured one of the key failings;

    “I called a friend this morning from the Punggol East PAP grassroots, to hear his views about the results and he said that there was a lot of unhappiness within the PAP grassroots that the PAP had parachuted a non-Party member from another constituency, and were only going through the motion in showing their support for KPK. He knew friends from PAP grassroots in Punggol East who had told their families and friends that they were going to vote against the PAP this time. The People’s Association volunteers too (according to my friend), were unhappy about how the PAP leadership hung out a PA director to dry in the Michael Palmer affair, and chose to display their unhappiness in the clearest way possible, by giving minimal support to PAP in this by-election.”

    Echoes of Pang Kim Hin in Anson 1981? Lessons not learnt or lessons forgotten?

  37. 95 Rajiv Chaudhry 27 January 2013 at 22:38

    The swing in votes was primarily an indictment of the PAP’s performance in office in the 21 months since GE2011.

    The first point of note is that the electorate are no fools. The voters in Punggol East have been quick to learn the lesson from last year’s Presidential elections: they made sure they did not return another minority candidate to office.

    Second, they are no longer willing to be taken in by crocodile tears, false expressions of contrition and willingness to “listen to the people”.

    Some examples of issues that ring false and insincere with the people are:

    a) A review of ministerial salaries that i) did not result in any substantive reduction in remuneration ii) made them commensurate with those of other world leaders managing similar sized economies and iii) most glaringly, provided for no link whatsoever with the median incomes of Singaporeans;

    b) A “National Conversation” that appears to be going nowhere and that leaves out significant sections of the population and major interest groups;

    c) A review of the AIM saga by the very body that is responsible for overseeing the fiasco: the MND. A classic case of “quis custodiet ipsos custodes”, who will guard the guards themselves?

    If the PAP has any hope of redeeming itself in the future it must, first and foremost, jettison Lee Hsien Loong as leader. Mr Lee has now led his party through three successive elections in which the party has lost or barely maintained, in the case of Hougang, its share of the popular vote, lost a GRC and overseen one election where his party’s anointed candidate (Tony Tan) barely scraped through. Whether or not it does so is, of course, up to the party and its cadre. The rest of us can only watch.

  38. 96 Stephen Lee 27 January 2013 at 23:05

    @ George, 27 Jan 21:28
    “… to send the army in’ should this ever happened …”
    Please. The old fox is way, way ahead of you.

    SMRT … has the army been sent in?
    NOL …. has the general been sent in?
    Parliament … how many generals & admirals are elected members of parliament?

    The army is already in place.
    The only thing missing is the uniform.

    • 97 George 29 January 2013 at 00:56

      Yes, and look how these generals and admirals have acquitted themselves – for example, Quek SJ ex-CEO SMRT, Bey SK ex-CDF, Lim NC ex-COA, and of course the two currently on trial.

  39. 98 Offshoreoildude 27 January 2013 at 23:20

    @George – I agree – there is no “By Election” effect and LHL was distinctly wrong in his post election analysis. The PAP as the incumbent has the resources, the history, the power and the positioning to a much greater advantage than the opposition. LHL did not recognize that which means he’s lying to himself I fear.

  40. 99 Png Kiok Khng 27 January 2013 at 23:25

    Not only is PAP seen as being unable to connect with the people, it also has a tendency of scoring own goals like AIMGate, Baey’s gaffe, etc.

  41. 100 Allan Han 27 January 2013 at 23:48

    Would you vote for PAP if the simple Toyota costs S$150,000.00?
    Would you vote for PAP if Hawker Centre Coffee O is S$0.90?
    Would you vote for PAP if you lose your job but foreigners are still here
    jamming our MRT?

    The answer is better than the By-Election Effects.

  42. 101 Jacky 27 January 2013 at 23:58

    If you were to ask me why I switched from being a pap supporter in the mid 2000s to abandoning them in 2011, my reason are as follows:
    1) Transport fare and electricity increase after election.

    2) Relentless import of foreigners. So even if you increase MRT line and housing, if the immigrant issue is not resolved, all these increase in housing makes no different.
    I believe the DBS Vickers forecast of 7 million people turn the tide in the punggol east election. Didn’t they promise to reduce the number of foreigners? Are they trying to dilute true-blue Singaporeans with mass import from philippine? Don’t they know importing so many of them create conflicts. Already, in the online media, you can read how those foreigners detest Singaporeans too if you just read some of the Singapore expat forum.

    3) Increase CPF minimum sum and withdrawal age without consulting Singaporeans. I notice they increase the minimum sum after election. They have no right to hold on to Singaporeans’ hard earned money and they should not play god. I read the news and many passed before they reach 65.

    4) They like to use state media to criticize and generalize Singaporeans. In today article, they criticize Singaporeans regarding the baby bonus.

    5) They like to dismiss local netizens as noise makers. Hello netizens are Singaporeans voicing our concerns.

  43. 102 Chanel 28 January 2013 at 00:25

    I believe AIM-gate also had an impact on BE 2013. S’poreans never knew that the ruling party would stoop so low. S’porems also ddn’t know that the party has set up companies to do businesses with govt and/or ovt related entities

  44. 103 CKT 28 January 2013 at 00:42

    I always wary of any person who keeps saying he is sincere, or for that matter any virtue. If he is what he self-praises what he is, he needs not say it, because it will betray it. Our Dr. Koh is such a person.

    The aftermath of this PE should be the constitution issue of fair representation in the Parliament. As we should know the number of MP seats won by ruling and opposition does not reflect the 60/40 percentages of the votes polled. I somehow suspect that even if in a GE the opposition wins a 60 % of the vote and yet it may not be able to win 2/3 of the parliament seats to change the constitution.

  45. 104 thm 28 January 2013 at 05:24

    Much has been said about the by-election effect being a key factor to the WP win of Punggol East and how it wouldn’t translate into a similar result in a general election. But what if in the next GE, WP openly states that it will form a coalition government with the PAP should the PAP lose majority? That may just be enough to reassure voters that they will not lose the knowledge and experience of the PAP as government, yet still be free to vote for whoever they want. The WP has acknowledged that it is not ready to form an alternative government, but stated that it will act as a check on the existing government and work with them to bring about changes and improvements. A coalition seems but one step further.

    By the way, this photo seems like an apt illustration of the differences between PAP and WP in their connection with the people:

    Link leads to Zaobao facebook. The photo captures the PAP and WP’s Punggol East Thank you parades passing each other. PAP’s Koh is waving from the top of a double-deck open top (sightseeing) bus, as a recorded announcement thanks the residents. WP’s Lee personally announces her thanks with a microphone from the back of a small lorry that weaves into carparks. Curiously reflective of their respective distance from the ground – residents can only wave back to the PAP team from afar, but are able to approach the WP team upclose, greet them and shake their hands. A picture speaks a thousand words.

  46. 105 EK Tan 28 January 2013 at 09:20

    Do not simply put it as by-election effects. MP present must be seen and felt. I see many heavy weight GRCs are taken care by only newly elected MPs, where are the heavy weight MP Ministers? The last election saw a heavy weight GRC lost, and many at the verge of losing. Learn a lesson from this before it is too late.

  47. 106 EK Tan 28 January 2013 at 09:27

    The present government is governed by many newly joined young ministers who are fallable and not tested, no good old guards are around. If the Workers party can attract sufficient good and qualified candidates, they are ready to form an equal alternative government.

    • 107 A Sim 28 January 2013 at 12:28

      Someone said to me yesterday that this swing of vote was scary. Assuming this trend is carried into the next general election, then we could possibly have a WP-run government.

      My view is that this will unlikely happen in the next election. But it is likely to commence with more qualified people willing to step forward to join the WP. Hopefully, they will be able to organize really good men and women who truly love the common people of Singapore and who will do things that will bring real benefits to these heartlander folks.

      I mentioned to my friend that don’t ever be bought again by the reasoning that only people with straight As or scholars have the ability and rights to run the government. Today, Singapore has many graduates to choose from. They need to identify from among them those who are courageous and really have the same spirit of the early founders like Goh Keng Swee, Hon Sui Sen and even LKY who really meant what they said, who had the big picture in mind, and who thought little about their own personal well being.

      I personally believe that meritocracy is good, but it is the elitist thinking that is killing the behaviour of really knowing how to be sympathetic to others.

      It always saddens my heart to see so many old people selling tissues for one dollar in many hawker centres and major road junctions. It also saddens me to see very old people doing cleaning jobs at food courts and MRT stations.

      Do our leaders really empathize with this today? I really have my doubts, especially after hearing some of the comments made by the senior guys after the by election.


      • 108 singaporeswing2016 28 January 2013 at 22:36


        “this swing of vote was scary. Assuming this trend is carried into the next general election, then we could possibly have a WP-run government.

        My view is that this will unlikely happen in the next election. But it is likely to commence with more qualified people willing to step forward to join the WP. Hopefully, they will be able to organize really good men and women who truly love the common people of Singapore and who will do things that will bring real benefits to these heartlander folks.”

        Its a fallacy to think that Singapore will fail without the MIW.

        At 50% of the salaries they are paying themselves without our approval, we can advertise key appointments globally and the queue to fill the vacancies will go round parliament house several times.

        In such a situation, the new Ministers / and cabinet need only ask the SERVANTS to present alternative proposals for the good governance of Singapore and good collective decisions will be made for the benefit of the people!

      • 109 MikeZeng 30 January 2013 at 09:32

        No similar swing in GE 2016……PE SMC comprise mainly young idealistic middle-class nuclear families well-educated, and Internet savvy. Methinks there could have been a subconscious conspiracy to vote for WP only and not RP to ensure PAP is kicked out! They all know the specifics of Aimgate….proof of PAP’s shameless attempts to undermine WP and any Opp party that dares to take over any constituency in an election. Cut the head of a chicken to frighten the monkeys!
        Sylvia Lim and Alex Au are the heroes who exposed the Aim scandal!

  48. 110 bee 28 January 2013 at 12:11

    whether it is by-election effects or not, it is very clear that pap is fast losing support. no past by-elections have we seen margin like this.
    all eyes are on low and his team now, and they should stop saying that they arent ready and there is lack of resources etc. if you set up an opposition party and has no intention to become government, then i wonder what is the purpose of becoming a politician. stability and good income? low is not a newbie, and if sdp can come up with policy proposals like healthcare and housing, i dont see why wp couldnt. if wp has stated they dont believe in opposition unity and wanted its ‘own path’, are you just going to be a co-driver and be happily contented?
    still, congrats to wp! but you really need to work much harder. dont be what some corners are now calling ‘the lesser devil of pap’, ‘pap lite’ or the ‘approved’ opposition party.

    • 111 A Sim 28 January 2013 at 22:05

      I believe in the coming 3 years, more able younger Singaporeans will step forward to join the WP. Once they have a large pool of qualified people, I also believe that they will be more bold and confident to express that they can be an alternative government.
      Today, the WP still does not have a sufficient pool of talented and willing people to make a bold statement publicly. I believe Low was also trying to be a responsible citizen of Singapore. So what he said only showed that he is a responsible individual, but at the same time as the leader of the main opposition, he was also trying to be realistic so that he does not create unrealistic expectations. While we demand change, we have to be careful not to destroy all the good things that have been built up over the years. To allow this to happen is foolishness.
      In my opinion, the SDP by coming up with policy proposals were just giving empty promises. CSJ will not be able to command the same kind of respect as what Low had done over the years. It is easy for the SDP to write whatever they wanted. But we know that given what we had already seen about the other opposition parties during the by election, SDP does not have the credibility to be a force to be reckoned with, at least in the near term.
      I think many among us would like to see WP grow in strength in the coming years. It is necessary that we have a strong enough opposing voice in parliament. Democracy will likely result in some delay or “inefficiencies” henceforth, but we can be more assured the checks put in place from a responsible opposing voice will result in more balanced policies for the good of all.
      Having seen much in life already, it’s tough for me to simply trust man’s words. It is also simplicity if we continue to agree that only people with bright academic records will be able to rule the country well. It is also not about values alone because what someone values today can change and be quite different later in life. Therefore the best safeguard is a system that creates the check and balance. Only this will help us to see things clearly. In the long term, voters will be better informed to vote correctly.

  49. 112 Rogueeconomist 28 January 2013 at 12:15

    On an alternative Government:

    I think Low actually sells his party short, though there are tactical reasons for doing so. The current PAP administration has many Ministers and senior appointment holders who have no direct relevant experience for their current portfolios (I still doubt that, say, being a General is a directly relevant qualification for any ministry except Defense).

    And even if one has directly relevant experience as a Minister holding a certain portfolio, what about when that Minister is reshuffled into another portfolio? Why do we think that they would be much better at running the new Ministry just becuase they had run an entirely different Ministry earlier?

    All political appointees everywhere throughout the world rely heavily on the civil service to provide policy analysis, inputs, and even policy direction.

    The same civil service would be available in case of, as some might say, a ‘freak’ opposition outright victory.

    At the very worst, a non-PAP PM could just carry on the current policies until there is time to review them. That would be no different from returning the PAP to power. But there is the potential upside that, unburdened by the past, an alternative party might be able to deliver true innovations in public policy.

    For these reasons I am much less concerned about the possibility of a non-PAP government. I am confident the civil service will continue to serve without fear or favor in the event.

    (Besides, as many have mentioned, what’s the difference between the WP taking over with no experience, and LKY and the old guard taking office with no experience when they first started out?)

    P.S. Well, OK, I can think of one difference. We now have a lot of money, which tends to tempt one to propose spending plans which are potentially ruinous in the long run. But I think the current administration is also not always the wisest spender either – it’s just that the kind of spending which is virtually unchecked is largely in the area of mega-projects and R&D rather than in social spending.

    • 113 bureaucrat 28 January 2013 at 21:28

      I thought of the same. The salient question though is, how many Singaporeans can differentiate between the PAP and the bureaucracy? PAP has cannily blurred the lines between the 2 so well that most Singaporeans have no clue that the bureaucracy continues even with a change in political leadership.

      Thus, it imperative for WP to start assuaging the electorate that life normalcy would continue, even without a PAP majority.

      Ironically though, the people who might need the most convincing to continue working for the benefit of all Singaporeans could very well be civil servants themselves as they have never experience working without having to implicitly pledge allegiance to the PAP.

    • 114 singaporeswing2016 28 January 2013 at 22:41


      Basically, the Cabinet / Ministers can work as a closely knit team and make collective decisions after alternative proposals are brought before them for the overall benefit of the nation and citizens!

      The FEAR of losing a PAP government is a false propaganda that has been deeply IMPRINTED in the minds of the people right from preschool till no-cpf days and repeatedly reminded 24 hours a day!

      • 115 Roy 30 January 2013 at 21:00

        Absolutely right! It’s a fallacy. For as long as there are fools who believe that Singapore will die without the PAP they (MIW) will continue to line their pockets and get richer at the electorate’s expense.

  50. 116 Sheeper 28 January 2013 at 12:19

    I do not think the 10.83% swing voters will vote for other parties like what was analysed. We need to remember the 10.83% didnt split themselves for RP or SDA. It would be very interesting to see SDP run this election and we will know what swing voters are thinking.

    If there is more 3 parties fight we will see clearer direction.

  51. 117 SM Goh 28 January 2013 at 13:22

    Let’s try and not get ahead of ourselves here. As LTK mentioned in today’s papers, WP is not ready to form a government or provide ministers, and I think Sylvia Lim mentioned in the press conference on Saturday that WP has “some ways to go to form a 1/3 majority”. The last thing we want to do here is spook voters that PAP will be replaced as the government, which will no doubt swing voters back to them, which is exactly what your article does.

    PE was a gratifying win nonetheless, but slow and steady wins the race.

  52. 118 Ian Lim 28 January 2013 at 13:34

    I believe that WP is still not ready to take on the governance role, as of now. PAP’s way of driving Singapore is similar to a top notch MNC’s directive, but maximizing profits through capitalism and WP’s role should be of somehow, a HR Director role, taking care of employees’ (Singaporean) welfare and benefits. I believe this should work fairly well in a 2 party system, with due respect to the other oppo party. Somewhat or rather, you really need someone experience in driving Singapore in a globalisation environment and some one else to keep everything in tab on a national level, which WP can be of a gatekeeper in making sure that Singaporean will not be short-changed.

  53. 119 Reza 28 January 2013 at 14:20

    The PAP must realise that its bully tactics such as sending lawyers letters to bloggers etc. are politically costly. It does nothing but to reinforce its history of jailing and suing critics to support its rule. The Singapore of old might think such tactics are called for, or react in fear, but it is clear that the Singaporeans of today will not stand for such nonsense anymore.

  54. 120 Saye Phin 28 January 2013 at 16:00

    How about computing the final % after factoring-in the two by-election results? Does PAP still have 60.1% supportoverall? Opposition 39.9% to improve after the two by-elections?

  55. 121 The 28 January 2013 at 16:32

    Below is my response to Barrie (Where Bears Roam Free: LTK what’s with the lack of your confidence?).


    I think it is the bear who got lost in the woods, missing the forest for the trees.

    LTK is a great strategist and even the PAP reluctantly admit. He’s already looking at GE2016 while our clueless bear is still roaming in the longkang at Punggol East.

    Humility – do not rub it in and be gracious in victory.

    Disarm – downplay your victory so that your enemy think it is the by-election effect that did the trick.

    Make noise in the east and attack from the west — start with local issues and play along with PAP initially, then totally change tack at the last few days and attack on national issues.

    Humility and humble-ness should not be mistaken for lack of confidence.

  56. 122 Derrick D'Souza 28 January 2013 at 16:55

    28 January 2013

    I was very impressed and comfortable with the body language, demeanour, directness and determination of new Ponggol East MP Lee and her 3 WP colleagues at the Sunday night press conference. We have not seen enough of these attributes for a long long time – let’s hopr for more of this at the next GE or by election? I sincerely feel that we need a larger number of seats to be taken by the other parties. In my opinion, it would be good overall and in the long run for Singapore.

  57. 123 yearningbreath 28 January 2013 at 20:01

    I don’t get the fuss about the Wayang Party. Both NSP and they won votes in the region of 12%. Why isn’t there anyone talking up the prospects of NSP? Just because they are not an opposition party endorsed by Kuan Yew? Wayang Party resembles more a Teochew clan than a serious political party.The time is nigh to vote parliamentarians into the parliament instead of these blanket-gifting demagogues.

  58. 124 yearningbreath 28 January 2013 at 20:29

    One wonders why Singapore is omitted in the latest Prices and Earnings report by the GIC-owned UBS.

  59. 126 K M Tang 29 January 2013 at 19:13

    Who would you think they put forward from the current crop of already elected PAP MPs to contest this by-election ? He or she could have been a “sacrificial” lamb in this Punggol by election (now that this by-election result already known) ? This Dr. Koh came in at the right time otherwise they would have to scratch their pick one from those that are already MPs and that probably solved the top brass some headache.

  60. 127 Norey Oh 30 January 2013 at 06:17

    I think it’s really real smart IT ppl who wisely think thru all issues, then like to act as gods n goddesses here online, but do they or dun they think carefully that “once we cross the threshold there’s no return”…read Robert Frost essay on the The Road I take…Please Vote in a new garhmen, get rid of the PAP, bring in the all those good for Singapore. I die to see it happen in 2016

  61. 128 Eureka 1 February 2013 at 23:42

    10.8% swing against the PAP is more of a WP/ regional specific swing and not a general swing against any Opposition Party. While this by election may give an indication of the future trend of elections, it does not apply to all constituencies and all political parties. The swing against the PAP should range around 3% to 10%. Marginalised or unknown parties like SDA, RP, DPP and SF probably can only get the hardcore Opposition votes in the region of 30 to 35% because Singaporeans generally think a known devil like MBT or TCH is still better than some monkeys from the Opposition. Well known Opposition parties and leaders contesting in favourable constituencies like East Coast, Tampines, Marine Parade and Joo Chiat, can master high enough swing to capture the constituency from the PAP. Even in the 3 corner fights, people have learnt how to cast votes tactically to the candidate that is most likely to win instead of voting for the candidate they like but have no chance to win.

  62. 129 Jorg 7 February 2013 at 18:07

    I’m a bit late to this discussion but I personally feel that 30 MPs is a reasonable target to shoot for in 2016.

    30 MPs will bring the number from 7vs80 to 30vs60.

    30 is a good number because it is 1/3 of the Parliament. Nobody is going to overthrow anybody. It also buys some time for Opposition parties to consolidate their operations and also for WP to start forming a shadow cabinet.

    When 2021 comes, it just takes 2 GRC wins (1 GRC = 5 MPs) to turn 30vs60 to 40vs50 – awfully close to 50%. By then, the national discussion will be extremely serious… And if WP does it right and also forms a shadow cabinet, WP will no longer just be co-driver, they could very well be the party that could give us the “First World Parliament” – i.e. a REAL political party that is a GOVERNING alternative.

    For now, I believe 30 MPs in 2016 is achievable.
    30 MPs is 6 GRC wins.

    Let us consider the following 6 GRCs:

    1. Tampines GRC under Mah Bow Tan (57% vs. 43%NSP)
    2. Kallang-Moulmein under Lui Tuck Yew (59% vs. 41%WP)
    3. East Coast GRC under Lim Swee Say (55% vs. 45%WP)
    4. Marine Parade GRC under Goh Chok Tong (57% vs. 43%NSP)
    5. Punggol-Pasir Ris GRC under Teo Chee Hean (65% vs. 35%SDA)
    6. Aljunied GRC (just maintain)

    Most of these GRCs are headed by some of the more unpopular MPs/Ministers.

    1. Mah Bow Tan is a really unpopular minister. This GRC stands a good chance for a win. The margin is 14%.

    2. Kallang-Moulmein is headed by Lui Tuck Yew. Plenty are not exactly convinced by his work as Transport Minister – I certainly didn’t think he did good enough of a job to solve Transport issues. Margin is 18%

    3. East Coast GRC has the SMALLEST margin loss at 10%. Lim Swee Say is a Minister without Portfolio. This GRC would be STRATEGIC because this GRC’s demographic are the more educated and richer ones. A win in this GRC would spell disaster, because it gives Opposition a lot of credibility, since the richer/more educated demographic would mean that it isn’t about a “Rich vs. poor” discussion, but rather more about “What is right for Singapore”. Margin is 10%

    4. Marine Parade has a good chance because Nicole Seah was a political debutant who absolutely held up against an EX-PRIME MINISTER. Goh Chok Tong was the biggest loser here. This GRC is also strategic because they are also richer and more educated. This GRC is also the most well-maintained by the incumbent. A loss here would create a HUGE dent, because it signals that people no longer are swayed by upgrading issues and carrots. Margin is at 14%.

    5. Punggol-Pasir Ris might merge with Punggol East.. Or maybe not..
    If it does, it is to WP’s advantage because of Lee Li Lian. If not, Teo Chee Hean might have his hands full if a more credible party runs against him. SDA is Desmond Lim’s party. For him to gain 35% is a pretty good result IMO.

    6. Aljunied just needs to defend.

    Six GRCs = 30 MPs in Parliament.

  63. 130 John Goh 12 February 2013 at 15:45

    Could competitions make a multi-parties system more effciency?

    Heavy competitions from different brands like Nokia, Apple, Samsung etc in technology like Cell phones getting cheaper, lighter and more functions?

    More competition leads to reduce in wastages?

    More difference parties generate much more ideas which lead to much more innovations?

    As in some successful western countries?

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