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Friday October 24th 2014

Punggol East by-election: Strengths, weaknesses and future of PAP and WP

Singaporeans are still ravishing in the fact that they can soon  flock to packed charged-up stadiums again  to hear their favourite political parties pump them up during  the forthcoming Punggol East by-election on 26 January.

Many have already voted twice  within a 18-month period – some for the first time even though they are in their thirties and residents staying in Hougang and Punggol East would have the  special priviledge of voting thrice within a short two-year period.

I have listed the strengths, weaknesses and future of the two dominant  parties eyeing Punggol East SMC.

People’s Action Party (PAP)

Stengths

The PAP has ruled Singapore for the past four and a half decades and is the only government that Singaporeans have known.

To it’s credit, the PAP has led Singapore from a third-world backwater port to a world-renowned  mega city with world class facilities and infrastructure – all within a short four and a half decades.

Its meritocratic policy  has enabled the poor to inch up the class  system using education as the only way out of poverty.

Many babyboomers and Generation X Singaporeans have benefitted from the system but the Generation Y feels left out because of competition from  the current foreign influx resulting in a  lack of opportunities for them.

Its dictatorial style means that the ruling party could do what it wants while  pushing for much-needed reforms and this benefitted the country alot during the post-colonial period in  Lee Kuan Yew’s era.

The ruling party has so far  installed a stable well-educated ministerial team with sufficient backup  from the many scholars that gleaned the elite Administrative Service.

There is hardly any political upheaval in the country except for the recent sex scandal case which triggered a by-election in Punggol East.

There is no also clear-cut corruption scandals affecting the government during the past two decades as most of it’s political key appoint holders are well paid to the tune of one million dolars a year for junior ministers.

The ruling party also has a good successive plan that has seen three prime ministers over the four and a half decades of it’s reign.

Many ministers are recruited from the army echelon and they have brought  with them loyalty and experience to the ruling party though many felt that they are too detached from the ground.

The country also has a solid world-class infrastructure second to none and has managed to attract the world’s best talents to it’s shore.

Many third-world top brains want to settle down in Singapore as citizens due to the abundant  opportunities  presented.

The country’s over-riding emphasis on the economy has seen it top the world’s most GDP growth last year and probably  for many years to come.

All in all, the government is seen as stable, reliable and abled.

Weaknesses

The ruling party’s main weakness is it’s inability to change – or exalt enough change to adapt to a  well-educated  electorate that is demanding  reform.

As political reform swept through the world during the past few years culminating in the revolutionary Arab Spring, young Singaporeans are switching camp to the vibrant fresh opposition parties such as Workers’ Party (WP)  or Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

To it’s credit, the PAP has tried to change and scraped several sacred cows - from de-emphasizing PSLE results to sacking incompetent ministers after the disastrous GE 2011 resulting in the first-ever loss of a GRC to the WP.

The ruling party also saw its majority votes slipping through the past three elections and many have predicted that in GE 2016, more seats will be gone resulting in a two or three-party Parliament.

No democratic political party in the world has rule for more than five decades and many political analysts have predicted that the PAP will be no exception.

Its decline will be sure and swift and the resurgence in opposition politics has ensured that the ruling party faces an uphill battle at the polls in five years’ time.

It’s best strategy is to plan for a stronger opposition force in Parliament in the future and learn to work with them rather than against them for Singaporeans’ sake.

People are clamouring for change openly now and will not hesitate to vote with their feet at the ballot box once every five years.

Some critics have even predicted that the government will be out of power in less than two decades’ time or they may need to form a coalition with another party.

The ruling party’s biggest handicap is it’s prolonged entrangement at the top which makes them look  very detached from the ground.

Many damaging policies such as the huge influx  of foreign imports, sole emphasis on building up  the economy at all costs  and pro-employer legislation have caused the people to distrust the government.

There is always also the debilitating factor that the prime minister is the son of ex-PM Lee Kuan Yew which deters him from attmpting to tear down some old scared cows in the process.

Future

The ruling party is now seen as a spent force and will likely lose more seats in parliament but may still remain power for  at least two more decades.

It has to learn how to share its power with other political parties in future and not to be seen as cutting them off.

The population wants change and it will come despite the PAP’s attempt at bringing in 20, 000 new citizens a year to influence the voting pattern.

It may feebly  arrest the downward trend for a while but over the long run, more people will follow the revolutionary trend of voting for the opposition.

The population has largely suffer from low wages for a long time and the recent influx of foreigners have ensure that property prices remain high and work opportunities at a premium low.

The country’s poor human rights record and freedom of speech mean that many young people are determined to vote against the PAP so that change will come sooner than later.

Worker’s Party

Strengths

The Worker’s Party has remained  the dominant opposition party in Singapore for the past decade led by the abled Mr Low Thia Kiang amidst a very harsh political environment.

Opposition politics have  being in a serious haitus for the past two decades and it’s resurgence  came about only  during the last GE in  2011.

The capture of Aljunied GRC reemained the best catch for the party so far and its resurgence is strengthened with the re-capture of Hougang ward six months aago when the seat is left vacant  by an absconded Yaw Shin Leong.

So far, eight of the nine Parliamentary seats are held by WP and no one will be surprised if  their presence is enhanced with more captured seats in five years’ time.

It’s strong brand name, party discipline and professional image have endear itself to the average  Singaporeans.

Many have treated the party as their saviour and faithfully attended the party’s rallies by the tens of thousands.

It has no star element like NSP’s Nicole Seah and even its best catch Mr Chen Show Mao is currently kept in cld storage.

WP’s future looks bright and promising and will lead opposition politics for the next decade.

It will likely win more seats in five years’ time adding on to its strong political presence in Singapore.

I have also heard that the party has a steady crop of good candidates primed for the next election and they are all ready to do battle for the party and country.

Weaknesses

WP’s main weakness could be it’s too-safe approach in trying to maintain a comfortable presence in Parliament without rocking the boat too much.

Many have criticised it’s soft approach in Parliamentary debates recently when none of it’s MPs has make any favourable impresson.

Even the star catch Mr Chen Show Mao is a paper  tiger and showed none of the fiery impact created   at the election rallies in GE 2011.

WP also tend to withdraw into its own exclusive mode leading many people to feel that it is aloof and detached.

For example, the SDP tries to engage WP in the  current Punggol East by-election but was politely rebuffed by the latter.

WP may need to share some of its’  opposition party resurgence with other parties.

It may have  tried to hard  to maintain the  dominance in local politics but there are also  many Singaporeans who support the fiery brand of SDP.

WP is also seen as too similar in style with the ruling party and critics have called for a bolder engagement in Parliament.

It also lacks a star speaker in the mode of JB Jeyeretnam and so far no one has stepped up the plate during parliamentary debates.

Future

Nevertheless, WP will likely remain the dominant opposition party for the next decade due to its strong branding and party discipline.

It has to however improve on it’s  parliamentary debates so that followers will not switch camp to other opposition parties.

Though SDP will continue to attract a following, its biggest handicap is a lack of presence in parliament.

WP will also likely win some more seats in GE 2016 cementing it’s position as the dominant opposition party here.

To win more support from the ground, it has to be seen as collaborating with other opposition parties and not seen as trying  to stay exclusive and unapproachable.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Reader Feedback

4 Responses to “Punggol East by-election: Strengths, weaknesses and future of PAP and WP”

  1. Anon says:

    Some points to make:
    1. PAP has ruled S’pore since 1959, not just since independence in 1965. So PAP has already been in power for 53 years.

    2. “Backwater port” is a PAPies propaganda, together with the often used phrase “fishing village”. Since the 1920s, S’pore has been one of the *major* international ports, linking trade routes between East Asia, South East Asia to India, Middle East & Europe. From 1900 up to the 1970s, most of the world’s rubber & tin & food spices had to go thru S’pore. If you read travelers’ accounts of S’pore in the 1930s you will find that it is already very developed. Immediately after wold war 2, S’pore’s GDP was on par with Japan.

    3. In this coming BE, Punggol East (which is actually in Sengkang) residents will mostly vote PAPies, and PAPies will win. As I have stated before, residents there are mostly young families with the average adults’ age in the mid-to-late 30s. They are almost all employed, and many are at their peak of their working years, earning very good salaries and bonuses in the past few years. Many have young children — toddlers, kindergarten age, primary schoolers. Most of the residents there have also bought their flats in the last 10 years — they have either seen very good appreciation in their flat prices, or have forked out expensive prices if they bought recently. They definitely don’t want to rock the boat.

    4. Even on a 1-to-1 straight fight, chances are that PAPies will still win. With a 3 or more corner fight, it is almost impossible for PAPies to lose. PAPies may be assholes, but they are not stupid. They have already run thru scenario stress-testing and Monte Carlo simulations by highly-paid analysts and strategists to determine that the timing is the best for them.

  2. sal says:

    We still have hope…..hopefully another opposition party candidate will make into Parliament. Its good to have multi party systems in the Parliament, where policies being debate and scrutinise to make Spore better place for its citizens.

  3. AL says:

    Well,my guess is that PAPaya might win by a sheer margin this time round. If the PAPaya under delivers what he promises, chances are the voters might think twice b4 voting for them again, in no time, PAPaya will eventually reduce or lose its seats in parliament, time will tell & heaven is watching..PE is not alone…the truth will then uncover many dark side of PAPaya reign for the past 50 or 60 years, by then when the oppo party open up or unlock the ‘country safe’ it will all be sabotage & wipe out.

  4. sal says:

    My wish….WP win by 1 vote and Ms Lee LL become MP for Punggol East.

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