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Thursday July 31st 2014

Ten reasons why PAP lost to WP in the Punggol East by-election

Two gentlemen must  be having sleepless nights after the disastrous showing at the Punggol East by-election – PM Lee Hsein  Loong and disgraced ex-speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer.

The Prime Minister must be cursing his luck when SDP decided to withdraw from the by-election battle a few days before Nomination Day thus handing the crucial  initiative back to the Workers’ Party.

His trump card of a 4 or even 5-corner by-election battle would logically split the votes among the opposition parties but with the withdrawal of big-boy SDP, only minnows Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance stood in the way of a rampaging Workers’ Party.

The other person who may have trouble sleeping lately is Mr Michael Palmer who was sacked because of spousal infidelity  triggering a vital by-election for Singapore.

The by-election loss is  significant for Singapore as it sent out a clear message to the government that all is not well and voters are willing to vote with their feet now – regardless of the consequences.

It has also cemented WP’s status as a resolute trusted opposition party deserving of their swing votes.

I have listed ten reasons why PAP lost so dramtically to the Workers’ Party in this by-election even when the latter  has  put up a normal Generation Y female candidate:-

1. Lost touch with the ground

Its common knowledge that the ruling party has lost touch with the ground for many years resulting in a disastrous showing at the previous GE 2011.

Many ministers and civil servants are sitting in their sheltered ivory towers dictating policies when clearly they are  unsure what hit the men in the streets.

Most are paid handsomely with year-end bonuses and average 3-month performance bonuses to realise that the wages of the average Singaporeans are being squeezed hard by unscrupulous employers out to make a quick buck in their businesses.

Worse of all, government aid agencies are also not doing much to help the average Singaporeans hit by structural unemployment.

For example, there are many complaints lined up against  unemployment-related aid agencies such as CDC, NTUC, Caliberlink, TAFEP and e2i and so far none has being  able to come up with any pulsating programmes to help the jobless PMETs.

The main grouse of most jobless PMETs visiting such government aid agencies is that the consultants are often very young and unable to relate to the middle-aged clients knocking on their door.

Most applicants also do not hear from their consultants again after the first visit which adds on  to their frustration.

2. Escalating cost of living

In his midnight press conference, WP chief Mr Low Thia Khiang has echoed what many Sngaporeans felt  about the rising cost of living.

Inflation has being cruising along at 4.5% on average for the past one year  and shows no sign of abating.

To complicate matters further, our wages have being depressive all along hampered mainly by the  availability of  cheaper and younger  foreigners.

Its the vicious cycle of having to earn more money in order to make ends meet and when it comes to survival issue, Singaporeans show their practical side by voting against the government.

3. SDP last-minute pull-out

SDP was the first party to enter the by-election fray and many were shocked when they announced that they would be pulling out of the contest few days before nomination day – effectively handing back the advantage to WP.

SDP has being growing in strength with their well-thought-out papers on national issues and they also manage to attract some top brains in Dr Ang Peng Guan and Dr Vincent Vijey.

If SDP is still in the by-election battle, it is envisaged that PAP will win as the popular leftist opposition party could command at least 15% of the votes casted – votes that are meant for the WP.

WP must really thank SDP for their historic win and hopefully we will see more of such strategic partnership in GE 2016 as the battle ground will prove to be more fiery and brutal than the recent by-election.

Our PM will probably need to be more politically astute as so far he has lost two by-elections within a short eight months’ period and if he lose more seats  in GE 2016 he may have to vacant his PM position.

4.  Top surgeon vs normal trainer

As usual, PAP fielded an elite in  top surgeon  Dr Koh and to his credit he came across as someone who is genuine and ready to help.

However, the average Singaporeans are sick of such elite candidates as the government is currently all filled with such top-brass people who are unable to connect well with the ground.

People are unable to relate to the top echelon well now given the serious wage gap between the have’s and the have-not’s.

We have one of the world’s worst wage gap and many Singaporeans question how can a $50,000/month surgeon comprehend the frustrations of those earning a paltry $2000/month as a low-end technician  struggling to keep his job from hungrier cheaper foreigners?

PAP needs to do away with fielding top elite candidates  in future election as sometimes it can back fire hard on them as seen in the recent Punggol East by-election.

5. By-election effect

Many PAP top guns have stated that the by-election effect has suited the opposition side more and I tend to agree with them on that.

In a by-election contest, the opposition has some advantage as the government is already formed and it will not rock the boat too much if an additional seat went to the opposition.

WP seized  this political  advantage and hit hard on this point  during their rallies.

So far, PAP has lost three of the four by-election contests and it could be true that  voters will not hesitate to vote in an opposition candidate as there is no loss to them when they do so.

6.  The  damaging AIM fiasco

It is unfortunate that the AIM fiasco happened few weeks before the announcement of the by-election contest.

Many netizens have speculated that the PM may want to avoid further embarassment as an investigation is already under way into the AIM scandal by calling for a snap by-election.

Will PAP win this by-election if he  postpones it to a much later date?

It is anyone’s guess now but the AIM scandal has embarassed the government and may have even persuaded some voters in Punggol East to vote for the WP.

To it’s credit, the WP has spent alot of time on their third and final political rally  focusing on the AIM issue  and I am sure that many voters who attended the rally would be swayed.

7.  Influential political blogs

I have spent more time reading about the by-election news in our socio political blogs than on the government-controlled Straits Times.

This is serious as such blogs tend to be rather anti-government and slanted but unfortunately there is no way that the government can control or curtail them.

Socio political blogs such as TRE, TOC, The Real Singapore and Temsaek Times have enjoyed increased readership during by-election period as netizens tend to flock to such  sites for an alternative view.

The Straits Times will lose out here as it tends to stay very neutral and even pro-government in all it’s reporting drawing many sincere readers away.

The lack of a free press will hurt the government more in future as young impressionable Generation Y voters will flock to socio political blogs for their daily feed.

I am sure that many voters from Punggol East have been reading up such blogs as most of them are techno-savvy and from the younger generation x and y groups.

The influence of political blogs must not be taken lightly as come GE 2016, more than 30, 000 new workers hail from the younger generation Y era will be able to cast their votes and they are all internet savvy and highly impressionable.

8. WP Chief vs PAP DPM Teo

To his credit, WP chief Mr Low Thia Khiang has taken effort and time to build up a tight opposition outfit which  is both disciplined and professional.

He has sat on the reins  of his MP seat for more than two decades and bid for his time with utmost patience.

Politics is a funny business and when you enter it at the right time and place, you will be elected.

Mr Low is also politically astute and managed to survive the dark years of the Lee Kuan Yew’s era by doing what he is best at – waiting.

He knew that the time is not right yet for a political revival in Singapore then and has taken the time to focus on building a reliable team over the years.

To many Singaporeans, Mr Low represents someone like a Robin Hood who is out there trying to fight for the down-trodden  living in  dictatorship.

Mr Low also has a capable chairman in Ms Sylvia Lim and she  complements his lack in mystery of the English language by filling up for him in many  Parliamentary speeches and   press conferences.

It is a good partnership and the WP looks compact and profesional now.

DPM Teo on the other hand is rather unpopular due to his aloof personality and talk-down mannerism.

Mr Tharman will make a better choice spearheading  such by-election strategies and moreover  Singaporeans have grown to like his cool personality and gentlemanly look.

With two failed by-elections to his bag, DPM Teo may need to either examine how he presents himself to the public or better still step aside and let someone else holds the baton in future.

9. Weak leadership of our Prime Minister

The fact that the PM allowed his deputy to handle the two by-elections showed that he is either very busy with something else or do not treat the two by-elections as very important on his agenda.

Many Singaporeans are surprised that the PM did not show up at all until the very second last day  of the campaigning when he spoke at the PAP rally.

He must be busy attending to something very important – something  much more significant than the voters of his country.

He left the campaigning very  much to DPM Teo and other ministers like Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Kiat.

This is a by-election which he could  ill afford to lose as the consequences are enormous and far-reaching and  I am sure that he wished he could have done more in  the by-election campaigning in view of the disastrous showing.

It is tantamount to letting your lieutenants fight a war all by themselves - of  which defeat would have  devastating outcome.

WP chief Mr  Low on the other hand personally visited Punggol East door-to-door on the first day of campaigning  with his candidate Ms Lee  and voters  like to be wooed than shunned here.

He also penned a personal message to the voters and it was mailed to all the residents staying in Punggol East.

PAP’s Dr Koh, on the other hand,  is often seen alone visiting the residents and DPM Teo only joined him intermittently giving the impression that the needs of the constituency are overlooked and underemphasized by the ruling party.

10. Unfinished amenities at Punggol East

DPM Teo has justified the loss to unfinished amenities as the contractor for the Rivervale Plaza has gone bust.

There is also a lack of childcare centres and many voters have questioned what their ex-MP Mr Michael Palmer has been doing all along.

There are also the report of a shortage in bus services routing from the MRT station and residents have to rely on the packed infrequent LRT services nowadays.

It is unsure how these unfinished amenities contributed to the disastrous showing for the PAP but one thing is for sure small things do add up and voters will remember  them vividly before they cast their vote at the ballot box.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Reader Feedback

8 Responses to “Ten reasons why PAP lost to WP in the Punggol East by-election”

  1. Charles Soon says:

    GE 2016 may be 3 years away. However the PAP is now vulnerable & will analyse & regroup, including dumping a few of the unpopular Ministers & MPs (goodbye LSS, MBT, WKS). The opposition parties need to get together now and work out a constituency- sharing formula & not wait till 2016 & the usual last minute gamemanship.

    Do not underestimate the PAP. Do not underestimate a wounded tiger. Be prepared. I wish WP & SDP well for the sake of all Singapoeans hurt by PAP Government policies.

  2. sal says:

    Hope more oppositions in the future especially from WP and SDP.

  3. CBLLCB says:

    11. (?) PA/grassroot revolt against the PAP ? Hearsay that PA was very upset with PAP when they decided to “out” her name in the Palmergate. According to people who know her said that she is really a very nice person, it is just unfortunate that she can’t control her emotions for him. Maybe, just maybe, the PA has a hand in this by-election result ???? Why PAP keep making tactical errors now-a-days, not to mention we Singaporeans don’t really have a clear vision from PAP.

  4. The says:

    /// Most are paid handsomely with year-end bonuses and average 3-month performance bonuses ///

    I think in the year before, it was more like 34 months bonuses.

  5. henry says:

    I will not suggest what the PAP could do to win voters for future elections. They are well equipped and have the entire civil service machinery, universities, think tanks and what not at their disposal.

    They are also well compensated with cash and perks.

    I do wish they would crawl away and leave Singapore to the real Singaporeans who care and want Singapore to be strong and hold up our integrity as a proud nation that came from humble beginnings. A Singapore that does not prostitute itself to all and sundry all because we do not have minerals to sell.

    We provide services but not cheap
    We provide services that are of high quality
    We provide service that is fast

    That is the Singapore that we want.

  6. xyz says:

    I think it boils down to the people having not much to lose, and wanting to stick a spur up PAP’s ass.

    The biggest grouse for people now is the high cost of living in S’pore.

    Many researchers, politicians, analysts don’t say it publicly, but the real reason why COL is so high is mainly becoz of depressed wages and lack of good-paying jobs for many ordinary Sinkies. Thanks to the uncontrolled mass influx of millions of cheaper foreigners which has farked up the normal free market pricing of jobs here.

    Looking in another way, London or even Sydney is a high COL cities, but you don’t hear so much of their people struggling, coz if you work in those cities, your salary is of a level to meet their COL. E.g. their bus drivers and garbage collectors are locals, and they can still enjoy a normal London or Sydney lifestyle on their bus driver and garbage collector salary.

    Here in S’pore, many companies especially SMEs (even medium-sized companies with 1000 staff) are just too addicted to mass influx of cheap young foreigners which can be easily controlled and also easily replaced, within 24 hrs if needed.

    Many SMEs are offering $2000 or even $1800 salaries for Uni grads, and they expect you to work minimum 50 hours a week, plus OT and Sats. Bosses also expect you to monitor and respond to emails and msgs over weekends and public holidays.

    Which Sinkie going to accept the above? But the companies will then complain to PAP and Mediacorp that they cannot find Sinkie workers, or that Sinkies are too choosy. I can tell you frankly: Even foreigners will not last long, at most 9 months before moving on.

  7. captor says:

    Before writing a retrospective pompous article like “Ten reasons why PAP lost to WP in the Punggol East by-election”, you should do some reflection yourself and study what went wrong with your earlier proclamation about WP losing to PAP earlier in the earlier piece “5 Reasons Why Workers’ Party May Not Win Punggol East By-Election”.

    In the previous article you cited a lot of bold allegations to prop up your prediction that WP may lose the Punggol East BE – citing general public disgruntlement of WP’s lackluster and meek attitude towards the PAP, personal aspersions on Lee Li Lian , that Gen X prefer status quo, no charismatic speaker like your idol Vincent Widjeysingha in SDP.

    In the end what happened? It seems that Singaporeans have spoken and disagreed with your assertion of a negative WP public perception. So what went wrong? How did you make such serious and erroneous assumptions in the first place?

    It is also worthwhile to note that the parties and characters which you so admire a few months ago bombed out pretty badly. First there was SDP’s internal revolt stemming from the botched joint campaign proposal which nearly annihilated the party CEC and caused several high profile candidates such as Dr Ang Yong Guan and Dr Tambiyah to quit.

    What about Reform Party? They sure were propelling strong rhetoric against both PAP and WP, the sort of “garangness” against PAP you were alluding to earlier. They were trounced so badly that they will likely be relegated to the role of political jesters come GE2016.

    A bit of humility and self-criticism are in order here instead of launching into another tirade of horse after cannon half-baked analysis.

  8. Jimmy Ong says:

    No need ten reasons just 1 will do. Choose any one.

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