Some Singaporeans must be pinching themselves to find out if they are really voting again – not twice but three times.
Many friends have told me that they could not believe having to vote twice within a six-month period - in the recent General Election last year and the Presidential Election this year.
Some of them have only voted for the first time last year as their constituencies have been walk-over all along for many elections.
If you are fortunate enough to stay in Hougang and Punggol East SMC, you will have the ultimate opportunity of having to vote thrice all within a 2-year period.
You can even walk blind-folded to the voting station if you have to do it thrice!
Nevetheless, the key question on many Punggol East voters’ mind will be – who should I be voting for the second time round?
For PAP supporters, they will also be weighing the issue of Mr Palmer’s extra-marital infidelity and maybe even swing their votes to the WP candidate.
However, many Singaporeans tend to vote along party lines and don’t even remember the MP’s name after a few months!
Michael Palmer was voted into Parliament as an MP with only a slight winning margin at 54.5% compared to the Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian 41% and the spoiler Mr Desmond Lim gathered only 4.5% of the votes thus losing his election deposit.
|General Election 2011: Punggol East|
|WP||Lee Li Lian||12,777||41.01||N/A|
I have listed five reasons why WP may not win this by-election even though many Singaporeans have think otherwise:-
1. WP inept performance in Parliament
Singaporeans by and large are disappointed with the WP performance in Parliament though I can sense the upsurge in interest for opposition party politics.
The WP MPs are uninspiring, lack a charismatic spokesman among them and generally came unprepared for parliamentary debates.
They are also too quiet during parliamentary debates and lack the fiery oratorical skills of the late JB Jeyeretnam or even Vincent Wijey of SDP.
The recent debacle surrounding the sex scandal case of ex-Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong also revealed that there could even be an internal split within WP ranks.
Even WP Party chief Mr Low has revealed that it was a tight decision within the CEC when the vote came to expel Yaw from the party thus stripping him of his MP post.
Mr Chen Show Mao non-inclusion in the latest CEC raised concerns that he may be in loggerhead with Mr Low and that there could be some envy issue on his vast popularity with the WP supporters.
Some critics have even questioned whether a third party such as the SDP should be brought back into Parliament if the WP continues its ineffective performance in Parliament.
2. Generation X married voters at Punggol East
Punggol East was actually carved out of the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC during the 2011 Election and has about 31, 000 voters.
The ward covers the eastern area of Sengkang.
Sengkang predominantly is filled with young couples coming in to form neucleus family units and some dwellers are also second-timer BTO matured occupiers who have shifted out of their old HDB estate into the young enclave.
I have being to Sengkang quite often as I stay in nearby Punggol and it is a lively new town with complete facilities for dwellers staying over there.
Moreover, young couples belonging to Generation Y tend to vote for the government especially if they are civil servants.
They won’t want to rock the boat too much and prefer the current status quo.
However, if they are affected by the recent foreign influx and are retrenched or worse made jobless because of a foreigner replacement, there is every chance that this group may swing their votes to the opposition camp.
Elections are often won when the current voters start to re- weigh their choices again and consider swinging their votes to the other side - especially if they have suffer adversely from policies laid down prior to the re-election.
People however generally tend to vote back the particular party of their choice and it takes alot for the person to swing his votes.
Strangely, people may even vote back a particular party that he hates due to many reasons.
For example, I have heard how many elderly folks vote back PAP for fear that their children jobs will be jeopardised!
Voters usually used their left brain to vote i.e. they will think through logically their choices based on many scenarios and then cast their votes.
That probably explains why there may be many supporters seen at certain opposition rallies but still the ruling party will win at the polls as it takes alot more than emotional election speeches to make them change their mind.
Nevertheless, the strong wind of favour is now blowing at the opposition camp as after the recent 2011 General Election, the whole country has been bogged down by transport woes, human traffic jam, high property prices. sex scandals among top civil servants and labour mismanagement.
I am pretty sure that if the Prime Minister decides to call for a by-election within this short period, WP has a strong chance to win by a tiny margin of less than one or two percentage points.
The Prime Minister will hopefully have the sensing that this will be the wrong time to call for a by-election as things are pretty messed up currently in our country.
But when is the right time to call for a by-election?
I will envisage that the PM will probably call for one within a three-month period to appease the growing discontentment among the population for equal rights between the ruling party and the opposition camp.
It is perhaps the right thing to do as the Prime Minisetr wants to be seemed as taking appropriate step to ensure that the Punggol East residents have an MP to serve them.
Opposition parties will also want to be seen as exacting pressure on the Prime Minister to call for a by-election soon.
3. Recessional year
Everyone has being telling me that next year will be recessional.
During bad times, Singaporeans tend to play it safe and vote for the current status quo.
If next year really is a recessional year, our Prime Minister may want to wait a little while and start to call for a by-election when the economy nose-dives.
The ruling party can’t afford another loss to the WP especially after losing Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC – all within a short 8-month period.
Not used to losing elections, the ruling party will want to ensure that they will retain Punggol East SMC during the by-election – by hook or by crook.
Losing Punggol East SMC will be a drastic slap in the face to PAP and provide loads of confidence to the opposition camp.
It will also fuel the notion that the ruling party is really in a downward spiral until a dominant two-party political system is formed.
Mr Desmond Lim has indicated that he will contest back the Punggol East SMC by-election.
Mr Lim is seen as the spoiler as he will never win the by-election however hard he may try.
There is every indication that in a three-cornered fight, PAP will always win as the opposition votes will be splitted within the two other camps.
PAP voters are pretty loyal and won’t want to swing their votes unless something drastic happen to their livelihood.
If Mr Lim withdraws his candidacy and allows a two-party fight, there is every chance that WP may win or lose by a slight margin.
For the sake of a better opposition representation in Parliament, Mr Lim and other wannabes should consider standing aside and let WP does their work.
5. WP candidate Ms Lee Li Lian
Ms Lee, age 34 years old, is an unknown and if WP fields her again, I wonder if she will be able to win in the by-election on a second ticket.
Ms Lee probably lacks the political clout and experience to be seen as a strong contender for the by-election.
I am also pretty sure that the PAP will want to field someone older and experienced to retain Punggol East.
Some people have already talk of the PAP bringing back George Yeo to contest in the by-election.
Mr Ong Ye Kung is a strong candidate as well but the former asst Sec Gen of NTUC has already resigned to join the private sector unless he can be coaxed to re-join politics.
Ms Lee is a trainer in a private institution and is a deputy webmaster in the WP’s executive council.
I have heard some of her campaigning speeches and she is articulate and polished.
I believe that WP should select someone who is much older in the mould of the 50-year-old Hougang SMC MP Mr Png Eng Huat to contest in the by-election.
Voters like to see someone older and experienced so that they have faith and confidence in the person they are voting for.
Mr Palmer has already shakened their confidence in the political system and they need someone matured and confident to steer them forward.
However, I believe that the PAP voters are unlikely to swing their votes too much because their previous MP Mr Palmer has extra-marital infidelity.
Most of them will probably vote along party lines but a steady experienced candidate can mean the difference between winning and losing.
All eyes will be on who WP will field for the by-election – if its Ms Lee again my fear is that she will be too young to provide the confidence necessary to shore up bruised sentiments arose from the failure of Mr Palmer.
Moreover, I am sure that PAP will want to field a power horse in order to win back not only Punggol East but the confidence of the entire country.
Losing the by-election will be catastrophic for the ruling party – it will be their worse nightmare.
Written by: Gilbert Goh