I woke up at 4am for my usual pee routine last night and realised that I have a series of text messages.
“WP have won!” one message screamed at me timed 1230 am.
I couldn’t sleep well after knowing the shocking news and felt the goose pimples crawling round me as I scrolled open more messages.
“WP won by 11 percent majority votes!” someone texted me.
You meant WP won by just ten votes? I pondered. How lucky…
I checked and found out later that actually WP won by 10% of the majority votes i.e. more than 3000 over votes!
I nearly fell off my chair…
This is a shocker as many of us have predicted that it would be a close fight and whoever win would do so by less than 3 – 4 per cent of the total votes casted.
For the record, WP garnered 54.5% of the total votes casted against PAP’s 43.7%.
WP also gained a total of 13.5% of the swing votes from GE 2011′s 41 per cent to last night showing of 54.5% – all within a mere 18 months and without really having to walk the ground too much.
More significantly, the overwhelming victory showed that Singaporeans are warming up to the Workers’ Party as the most trusted credible opposition party and would vote for anyone whom they have placed.
The victory was also significant as it has busted the myth that in a 4-corner by-election battle, PAP would have the upper hand but clearly this time round WP has provened otherwise.
Even the Prime Minister must have thought of a clear imminent victory as he confidentally called for a snap by-election barely a month after expelling the disgraced Michael Palmer from the single ward.
Singapore was still embroiled in the AIM town-council fiasco then and many Singaporeans were slightly surprised that the PM has called for a by-election so soon.
Five opposition parties have expressed interest in the ward when Michael Palmer was fired from his seat and according to the recent Presidential Election, when more than two parties are contesting, the votes – especially those from the opposition would be splitted as they would vote for their respective favourite party.
So when SDP withdrew from the by-election race few days before nomination day, our PM must be worried as SDP is getting very popular now and they could prise away at least 15 – 20 percent of the opposition votes meant for the Workers’ Party.
Let us hope that SDP will win a GRC in the next general election for putting Singaporeans’ interest first here!
Still the confidence was there as Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance continued to join in the by-election battle and I am sure that the ruling party hoped that these two political minnows could pull away some of the opposition votes resulting in a slim victory for PAP.
This was not to be and we knew the rest is history now.
The Punggol East by-election defeat is a tight slap in the face for the ruling party and clearly showed that the yearn for political plurality has not waned.
The spill-over effects of GE 2011 have continued unabated and my take is that if the next general election is held soon, PAP may lose more seats as the wind of change is blowing very vigoriously now and showing no sign of slowing down.
Given the recent change in political circumstances, it is envisaged that the ruling party will have no chance to hold on to their usual dominance in parliament and will eventually have to share power with another party resulting in a two-party parliament in future.
There is also talk of the ruling party falling out of power in less than 15 years’ time ie within three general elections as so far in the world no political party has managed to rule for more than 50 years.
This is ominous news for the ruling party and I am sure that a solemn post-mortem will be called soon by the PM.
So, will the ruling party may now try to delay the next general election to the last few months for fear of the inevitable or only do so when factors are seen clearly in it’s favour e.g a looming recession?
Will they now change tact and decide to go after popular concessions in the hope of gaining back some lost ground just 18 months after the recent general election?
As for this by-election, many analysts have predicted a slim victory for PAP as the younger generation of couples staying in Punggol East would not rock the boat too much by voting for the opposition as at stake are their property valuation and housing amenities - things that mattered to any new couples having their first nest.
Never in their wildest dream would the PAP imagine that they could lose Punggol East and in such a decisive manner.
This is one by-election that PAP could not afford to lose as it would mean the total loss of confidence in the government and more seriously even within the party echelon itself as it tries very hard to make amends after the disastrous GE 2011.
In his midnight press conference, WP chief Mr Low Thia Khiang spoke for many Singaporeans when he said these words:-
“Although many policies have been reviewed and the government has been working towards that, the result shows that the effect has not really trickled down to the ground and people still feel the pressure of the high cost of living and many other things as well.”
The ruling party has also not done much to tighten the influx of foreigners as the inflow still continues after GE 2011 abeit in slower measure.
The influx of foreigners has led to many other adverse consequences for Singaporeans viz-a-viz unfair competition for jobs and the sky-high property prices as permanent residents continue to bid aggressively for resale HDB flats.
As for me, I have to eat my words as all along I have doubted that WP would win the Punggol East by-election due to the 4-cornered fight syndrome and tendency of the younger couples to vote for the ruling party out of practical reasons.
However, I am very happy that I was provened wrong than right this time round!
And yes – the by-election was lost because people are not happy with the many policies of the ruling party even though PAP has claimed that voters would vote to choose an MP and not the party this time round as the government is already intact.
I am pretty sure that in future by-election the same effect will take place i.e. voters choosing an opposition MP over the one from PAP unless things have improved drastically.
Written by: Gilbert Goh