Friday, July 22, 2011

Orchid evolution

The outcome of Singapore General Election 2011 was termed as watershed which perceived to impact greatly on the future government policies and communication approaches for Singapore. After a cooling period of more than two months after GE, it is now appropriate to look back and capture some essential occurrences that would probably shape the future of Singapore.

(PM Lee agreed that 2011 GE was a watershed. Government has to review many policies and should refocus on people's concern rather than pure GDP growth. 2011)

George Yeo and co. lost their battle in Aljunied GRC on May 7. George Yeo pull himself out from the battle field and shared his great holistic wisdom as usual. He saw himself as part of the changing tide and his lost to Workers' Party was not a personal lost. Instead, it was a natural progression of Singapore's  version of democracy. He said he loved freedom and would not participate in the future elections. While many Singaporeans mourned for the lost of a capable minister, they also recognised the need for credible opposition members to balance the parliament was an essential step for future Singapore.

(George Yeo and co. thanked the 44% voters who supported them in Aljunied GRC. 2011)

GE2011 was seen as another watershed. Watershed not only because of Gen Y were having their taste to cast their first votes, it was also due to the fact that many die-hard pro-PAP supporters had decided to switch their minds to the other side of the camp.

Taking a holistic view from the past GEs, I believe 1984 was the first watershed that threatened the PAP's monopoly. PAP used to enjoy more than 70% vote share since independence. However, GE 1984 rocked the boat with about 65% votes and sent PAP back to reality. Since then PAP had been consistently hovering below 65% of total vote share.

Given its history and legacy laid by David Marshall (founder of WP), WP have been strong contester since JB Jayaretnam's first won in Anson by-election dated back in 1981. Since then, there were blips in between but WP was resilience enough to pick themselves up and provided people with credible alternative choices from time to time.

The only exception for PAP was 2001 GE where PAP garnered 75% of the total vote share. For that particular election, PAP returned to power on nomination day. Many constituencies were unchallenged. Goh Chok Tong who opened up Singapore through his exceptional consultative style, continued with his materialism ideology based on economic theories, going along with "asset enhancement" such as local HDB upgrade first articulated in 1997 GE. Voters' minds were masked with selfish intents and chased after paper wealth. The national issues were left aside.

Up to 2011 GE, Goh still felt very proud of this particular GE achievement. However, Singaporeans had moved on to beyond asset enhancement and became more politically awake, thanked to the hard work of some opposition parties and new social media. With such awareness, Goh's Marine Parade GRC could not be spared and could only garner about 56% of the total vote share. It was about 4 percentage point below PAP's average.

(Goh Chok Tong claimed that the Ling-Ling (Ting Pei Ling of PAP, Nicole Seah Xue Ling of NSP) was a major contributing factor in lowering the PAP vote share in Marine Parade GRC. 2011)

Since 1984, there had always been about 1/3 of the voters opposing PAP. They were also careful in choosing the right candidates to bring democracy into Singapore parliament. Given the credible candidates from WP in GE2011, it became very difficult not to give the WP team who contested Aljunied an opportunity to contribute to democratic progression. George Yeo was unfortunate to be positioned in Aljunied GRC to face such tide.

GRC may well be the ultimate weakness and unfair playing field that caused George Yeo to end his political career prematurely but graciously. At the same time, GRC system brought in some political babies through "safe heaven" from the other PAP wards. GRC seems to me was formed to protect PAP's interest back in 1988 and was like engaging a reverse gear, moving towards anti-democracy. It should not be exist then and it should be abolished now.

(A credible team assembled by WP for Aljunied GRC. 2011)

(Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC went to WP. PAP managed to capture back Potong Pasir from Mrs Chiam with 50.5% vote share after 27 years. 2011) 

PM Lee Hsien Loong pledged to make changes to the way the PAP government works. As Singapore enters a new chapter in its political development, perhaps the utmost important task for the PAP technocrats, being MPs or ministers, would have to relearn was how to win not just the minds of Singaporeans, but their hearts too.

(Could PM Lee Hsien Loong's team of technocrats duplicate the heart and soul of Lee Kuan Yew and his team? 1959)

As an example on nomination day of GE 2011, a crowd of Singaporeans turned up at Deyi Secondary School to cheer their teams, waiting patiently in the field under the sun. After the PAP and WP teams addressed the cheering crowds, they went down to the field to greet supporters. Some PAP candidates being feted and carried aloft by supporters. But the WP team did one thing exceptional.

Low Thia Khiang led his team-mates to the gate of the field. They stood there humbly in line. Under the blazing sun at noon, they shook hands with each supporter streaming out and thanked them one by one.

That shows with people at hearts. That makes tremendous difference.

(Afternote: A post-election survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies has found that there were more swing voters in the latest general election compared to the 2006 election, especially among those in their 40s and seniors aged above 65. ---The Straits Times, July 9, 2011)
PAP's total vote share:
1959: 54.1% (First election - self governing)
1963: 46.9% (Operation Coldstore in Feb 1963 detained more than 100 BS members including the key leaders. Election was held on 21 Sep, 5 days after the merger of Singapore and Malaysia. PAP's Toh Chin Chye defeated BS's Lee Siew Choh in Rochor Constituency by 89 votes)
1968: 86.7% (First election after independence in Aug 1965. Barisan Sosialis boycotted parliament)
1972: 70.4%
1976: 74.1%
1980: 77.7% (2nd industrial revolution- economic restructuring for Singapore. The nation was filled with joy and hope)
1981: Anson by-election. (WP JB Jeyaretnam defeated Pang Kim Hin of PAP. 51.9% )
1984: 64.8% (Graduate mother scheme kicked in. WP JB Jayaretnam defeated Ng Pork Too of PAP in Anson. 56.8%. Chiam See Tong of SDP defeated Mah Bow Tan of PAP in Potong Pasir. 60.3% )
1988: 63.2% (GRC was first implemented. WP team Francis Seow, Lee Siew Choh and co. lost Eunos GRC at very narrow margin. 49.1%)
1991: 61% (Goh Chok Tong called for GE to seek "strong" mandate from Singaporeans afer he took over PM in 1990. Low Thia Khiang of WP defeated Tang Guan Seng of PAP in Hougang. 52.8%)
1997: 65% (materialism such as HDB upgrade was used as a GE tactic from now on. WP team Tang Liang Hong, J B Jeyaretnam and co. lost in Cheng San GRC. 45.2% )
2001: 75.3% (Tang Liang Hong was sued after the last election which might have generated some fear factors. 2 months after 911. Credible opposition candidates lacking)
2006: 66% (WP team Sylvia Lim and co. lost in Aljunied GRC 44%. Overall WP garnered 38.4%, including a 'suicide squad' contested in AMK GRC led by PM Lee and won 1/3 of the vote share)
2011: 60.1% (WP team Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Chen Show Mao, Pritam Singh and Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap defeated PAP in Aljunied GRC. 54.7%. Overall WP garnered 46.7% of the total votes’ shares against PAP)

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