I took a cab ride last week to my appointment and the driver was chatty on the Punggol East by-election – he told me that the Workers’ Party will win the Punggol East by-election even though it is a five-cornered battle!
I told him that even in a three-cornered fight, PAP will win as the opposition votes will be splitted between the other two opposition parties.
I quoted him statistics from the Presidential election which saw a 4-cornered Tan fight and we knew how it ended.
Note that this cab conversation happened last week and before the Prime Minister announced the by-election date.
“Workers’ party sure win one la…” he told me emphatically as I sat behind the cab.
“They have the wind and it is blowing at their end now.”
Workers’ Party sure to win?
Maybe my cab driver was very much influenced by the Hougang SMC by-election win just six months ago when Yaw Shin Leong absconded from the MP seat triggering a by-election.
Though I wanted very much to agree with my cab driver, I must admit that PAP has the winning edge now in a four-cornered fight.
It is also no wonder that the Prime Minister quickly announced the Nomination Day to be on 16 January follows by voting day on 26 January.
Some have speculated that he wants the by-election to be done and over with before the AIM findings become public but I disagree as I thought the Prime Minister has seized the early advantage knowing that the SDP seriously also wants to contest in the by-election.
SDP has grown in leaps and bounds since last year by proposing a series of well-thought-up papers from healthcare to population growth.
It’s Secretary General Chee Soon Juan has also grew more sober and matured and many observers have detected that he is a changed man now compared to many years ago when he went on a unpopular hunger strike and yelled at the then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong during a election campaign.
SDP actually deserved a shot at the by-election but I am sure that Workers’ Party will not give way especially when they have contested in that ward during the past election.
There is this unspoken rightful claim to a by-election ward if the party has contested in it before.
I am sure that SDP will not be happy if the Workers’ Party contest in Holland GRC if there is a future by-election in that area.
Moreover, what probably irks many other opposition supporters is that WP seems aloof and distant after winning the Aljunied GRC and do not make any attempt to connect with other opposition parties.
There is this enforced exclusivity which bothers many Singaporeans.
They behave as if they are the only elite opposition party and cut themselves off from the rest.
I believe that this is wrong as a united opposition is the biggest threat to the ruling party and not just a solo dominant opposition party.
Unity of opposition parties in GE 2011
We all knew that the ruling party’s worse nightmare happened three weeks before Nomination Day during the 2011 General Election when all the opposition parties came together and strategised so that there would not be a three-cornered fight in any constituency.
When I saw a picture of all the opposition parties’ chiefs sitting round a table curving out their turf of engagement for the general election, I saw unity and hope for the country.
It is when all the opposition parties could sit down and unite together for a common cause, then the ruling party will shudder and worry.
The strategy worked well for the opposition during the previous general election as it is envisaged that any three-cornered fight would automatically hand the favour back to the ruling party.
Political analysts have argued that there will be 40% loyal PAP voters followed by another 30% of die-hard opposition supporters with the remaining 30% comprising of swing voters.
Even if the remaining 30% of swing voters totally support the two other opposition parties, PAP will win as their voters are pretty loyal and the two opposition parties have to share the other 60% votes.
PAP loyal supporters comprise mainly old folks of the Lee Kuan Yew era, civil servants, generation X PMETs who are gainfulyl employed and doing well and businessmen with PAP ties.
It is envisaged that the ruling party will win the Punggol East by-election by less than 50% this time round - probably in the mid-40s percentage range.
Too many negative stuff has happened since GE 2011 especially for those who are disillusioned by the foreign influx affecting their employment and housing opportunities.
Many local PMETs were replaced by incoming foreign talents and our resale flat prices have sky-rocketted causing many new couples to miss out on better housing choices in the resale market.
Multiple-cornered fight benefits PAP
If Workers’ Party could have the mandate to go in as a solo opposition party and contest the Punggol East by-election, there is a slim chance that they may win against all odds.
PAP’s candidate Dr Koh Poh Koon seems weak and not a strong war-horse many envisaged PAP will field in a must-win by-election battle.
He also looks shy and unapproachable on photo.
During the last general election, the Workers’ Party managed to garner 41% of the total votes by fielding a young female candidate.
SDA’s Desmond Ang garnered 4% of the votes which rightfully should go to WP and lost his deposit.
Singaporeans are generally unhappy with their living conditions right now especially with the flood-gate of foreigners in our midst.
Things have pretty much gone downhill after GE 2011 with serious infrastructure failure such as the massive Orchard flooding and frequent SMRT breakdown.
The public scrutiny of the sex scandal cases involving top civil servants and of course Mr Michael Palmer have also place the ruling party on a defensive mode.
More seriously, their famous whiter-than-white party slogan has gone down the drain of no return.
Moreover, the latest AIM scandal involving the town councils have capped off a dismal year for the ruling party.
A by-election is the last thing they want on their agenda especially when it is triggered by a sex scandal involving their own high-ranking politician.
Never so much negative stuff has happened in any given year since the ruling party seized power in 1965 that it is as if they are shooting themselves in the foot time and again.
The regular by-election syndrome seems to favour the opposition parties more as it allows them much needed publicity which usually come once every five years.
For the Workers’ Party, they could not have ask for a more regular opportunity to gather 30, 00 people and propagandise their message to them for five nights straight during campaigning.
As for the ruling party, every by-election is a unwelcomed distraction as they have no time to try and rebuild from the disastrous GE 2011.
They also could not consolidate and build on the popular National Conversation which allowed them to speak to at least 10, 000 people so far.
Nevertheless, unless the opposition parties come to a compromise and field only one candidate, the ruling party will win for sure.
This by-election is one that PAP could not afford to lose as it will be a serious stab to the morale of the ruling party and cement the common belief that PAP is on the slippery slope of power decline.
Written by: Gilbert Goh