Friends have being calling me to attend the Punggol East by-election rallies started since yesterday but I was reluctant to attend any.
Maybe I am still suffering from the election rally fever during GE 2011 when we all have to prepare our speeches and went through dry-run a few days before the actual rally.
Anyway, I am sure that the four parties currently contesting the Punggol East by-election will be all fired up to campaign aggressively for the next 9 days to try and win over the majority of the 32, 000 votes.
Many Singaporeans are generally surprised that Punggol East is not within Punggol town itself but is located by the fringe side of Sengkang area.
Many political analysts have also speculated that Punggol East is curved out for ex-Speaker Michael Palmer during GE 2011 as that area is largely dominated by the ruling party and is deemed “safe”.
Incidentally, PAP won Punggol-Pasir Ris GRC against a weak SDA team by a huge 29% majority margin during GE 2011.
However, Mr Palmer managed to win Punggol East SMC slimly gathering 54.5% of the votes casted against WP’s Lee Li lian who won 41% and Desmond from SDA winning only 4.45% of the votes casted thus losing his deposit.
According to HDB Infoweb, the whole Sengkang town has 160, 000 dwellers as of 2011.
I have listed 5 things Punggol East residents will be looking for before they cast their votes during this second by-election after Hougang SMC:-
1. Childcare centres
PAP candidate Mr Koh Poh Koon hits the nail on the hammer’s head when he mentioned a day after nomination that he will build more childcare centres in his ward – if he wins the election.
There are miraculously only six childcare centres in Sengkang right now:-
|Agape Child Care (SK) Pte. Ltd.||325B, Sengkang East Way, #01 – 655, Singapore 542325||
|Cedan Child Development Centre||50, Sengkang East Way, Singapore 548601||
|Faith Educare Centre (Seng Kang)||260D, Sengkang East Way, #01 – 468, Singapore 544260||
|Modern Montessori Pre-school Centre||60, Sengkang East Way, Singapore 548596||
|Shekinah Montessori House||54 Sengkang East Way, Singapore 548599||
|The Sunbird Child Development Centre Pte Ltd||122A, Sengkang East Way, #01 – 49, Singapore 541122|
As Sengkang is a fairly new town and comprises of many young couples with children, having more childcare centres will definitely be a key carrot for them.
The ruling party - with vast resources available at their disposal will have a huge advantage here as voters will know that PAP can easily deliver it’s promise of another childcare centre in Punggol East if they win the by-election.
The AIM mishap has shown that the ruling party will make things difficult for any ward that votes for the opposition and my fear is that Punggol East residents who are both young and professional will find this difficult to stomach as they try to build a reasonable nest for themselves.
PAP has the edge here.
2. Property prices
Sengkang is a relevantly new town but it has solid amenities.
It is well connected with LRT and bus services and is probably the next best town to live in after nearby Pasir Ris.
There are also few private housing in Sengkang and at least half of the HDB houses have crossed the 5-year mandatory occupation period for second-hand sales.
If they have bought their flats 5-7 years ago which was still very affordable then at around $150, 0000 – $200, 000 for a 4-room BTO flat, they could sell it now at around $450, 000 depending on location and renovation – reaping a handsome profit of around $300, 000.
Young couples who have just bought their flats five years ago will not want to see their property values go down and prefer not to change the status quo of having a PAP MP overseeing their ward.
PAP has the advantage here again.
3. Party Candidate
I am actually surprised that PAP chooses surgeon Koh Poh Koon for the must-win candidate for the by-election.
Anyway, its typical of all PAP new candidates – young, professonal and from the elite.
I have spoken to some friends who have told me that they found Dr Koh to be aloof, detached and impersonal.
Mor importantly, as a successful surgeon hailed from the professional elite, he may not understand the frustration and woes of the struggling young middle-class.
Many newly-weds with children have to struggle with work stress and marital conflict and some will eventually divorce because of the inability to cope with the lifestyle changes.
Workers’ Party’s Ms Lee Li Lian is also a young female candidate in her mid 30s and I feel that if WP fields a stronger more matured candidate they could actually win the by-election.
With two weak main candidates, PAP now has the upper hand due to their stronger track record and ability to deliver better infrastructure when their candidate is beng elected.
PAP slight edge here.
4. Future of Singapore
Many Singaporeans are considering the political future of the country as they foresee that opposition politics will continue to grow in strength possibly culminating in yet another watershed GE 2016 when PAP will lose more seats to the opposition.
Will the Punggol East residents continue to support WP so that it will be seen as the main opposition party or cast their votes for the ruling party out of pragmatic practical reasons?
The head will definitely go for the ruling party if they want to see more childcare centres in their ward and continual strong property prices for their houses.
The heart however will go to the opposition side as they see how dictatorial PAP has being all along and how many of their older educated friends are hit hard by the foreign influx forcing many of them to do commissioned jobs such as property agents or drive cabs in order to survive.
They know that once they turn 40 and out of job, they will land up like their older friends.
Morever, many Generation X young couples in their thirties are actually pretty unhappy with their circumstances now - they have to work very hard to make ends meet amidst the ever-escalating cost of living here.
This group also has the highest rate of divorces right now as the median age for divorce is 41 years old for males and 37 for females (singstat).
Most divorces will occur on year ten of the marriage.
They all struggle with work stress, different parental style and couple communication issue.
The candidate who could understand their problem and speak directly to their heart will probably capture the ward.
WP has the edge here.
5. Foreign citizens
I have met a foreign citizen from India who stays in Sengkang last year.
He was out of job for a while and works as an engineer.
He seeked out support from our organisation and I was not surprised that he felt negative about his prospect here.
However, I was shocked when he later revealed that he has applied for work visa to work in Australia and wanted to sell off his property for a tidy profit as he has stayed In Sengkang for close to 7 years already.
He owns a 5-rm flat and bought it for less than $150, 000.
I wondered who he will vote for if he is still struggling in Singapore right now as a jobless converted citizen?
There could be thousands of new citizens residing in Pungol East now as it is the new town-to-be five to seven years ago.
Many foreign citizens are also impacted by the current foreign influx and will not hesitate to vote for the opposition if they are affected by their own circumstances.
It is to WP’s credit that they do not touch on the foreign import policy too much as new citizens will be a force to be reckoned with come GE 2016.
Each year, PAP will convert 20, 000 new citizens in the pretence of trying to arrest the low birth rate here but we all know what the main reason is.
I believe that there could be a few thousand new citizens residing in Punggol East and their votes could even determine which party wins the by-election.
PAP may not be their choice of vote and I am sure that the Indian citizen I saw last year will cast his vote for the opposition.
PAP and WP even here.
Written by: Gilbert Goh
Editor’s note: My final polling predicton: PAP – 48% WP – 45% RP – 4% SDA – 3%