Some have optimistically predicted that at least two group representative constituencies (GRC) and three single member constituency (SMC) will fall to the opposition wards due to the hostile ground shift against the ruling party.
Moreover, this will be the first time that all seats may be contested ensuring that the ruling party does not return to power automatically before polling day. In a way, this is a huge political boost for the opposition parties.
All along, they have played a distant fiddle to the ruling party and have difficulty getting candidates to stand for election due to the intimidating tactics used by the ruling party to dissuade interested parties from jumping on board the opposition wagon.
I also remembered during the past election in 2006, such bold forecast that the opposition would win a certain number of seats was also predicted but we all knew how it turned out in the end. Only two single seats were returned to the opposition wards: Hougang and Potong Pasir.
Many people were disappointed and some have even packed their bags and migrated after that election result. Many could not imagine how the opposition parties can improve on their election show in future.
Only Aljunied GRC remotely represented an upset for the opposition ward. The Sylvia Low-led Workers’ Party team managed to garner a respectable 44% of the total votes casted making them the hottest group to finally win over a GRC in the coming election.
No opposition party has won a GRC before and some political analysts have speculated that the coming election may bring pleasant surprises for the opposition.
Importance of Swing Votes
So who actually are the ones that will vote for the opposition? Will there be enough swing votes that will shift their loyalty to the opposition camp?
We all know that at least 33% of the electorate will vote for the opposition if we took into the account the voting pattern in 2006. The ruling party managed to garner 66% of the voting majority – a drastic drop of 8.4% from the 2001’s majority vote percentage of 75%.
1.22 million out of the 2.12 million eligible Singaporeans voted during the 2006 election and a 8.4% swing meant that roughly 85,000 Singaporeans have switched camp to the opposition.
This is a crucial piece of information for all political parties involved in the next election as it means there will be at least 10% of our voters who will be ready to switch their allegiance depending on the circumstances that they are in during election year. Of course, some opposition voters will switch back to voting for the ruling party when things have improved from the time they voted previously to the next election. However, this switch could be minimal as the issues that affected the populace during the 2006 election are still there and may even have gone more serious.
The key issues for the 2006 election were high cost of living, influx of foreigners, unemployment, dominance of the ruling party in Parliament among others.
More significantly, the 8.4% vote swing was achieved with a very weak and inept opposition with less than half the seats contested in 2006. Many political analysts have envisaged that there could be more swing votes if all of the 2.12 million eligible voters have an opportunity to vote during the previous election.
Given the current resurgence of opposition politics and a host of deep-seated ground grievances, many have predicted that the ruling party will face a very hostile electorate if they call election within this year. They will be fortunate if they manage to garner close to 60% of the majority votes this time.
Swing votes are crucial for contestants as it could mean defeat or victory in closely-fought election battles. Aljunied GRC was won by the ruling party by a difference of about 6% of counted votes during 2006 GE and will remain a hotly-contested GRC for the next election.
There will always be loyal voters who will vote for their respective parties come rain or shine. It is expected that the majority of civil servants, foreign-breed citizens and senior citizens will vote for the ruling party.
At least 50% of voters will definitely vote for the ruling party at any given election, 30% will vote for the opposition and 20% are those unsure swing votes that the opposition will clamour for. Of course, the ruling party will want to keep swing votes to as low as possible through HDB upgrading, election goodies and threats.
Many would remember how the ruling party used the multi million upgrading carrot to lure Hougang voters to swing their votes but we all knew how the people there remained loyal to their contestant Workers’ Party Secretary General – Mr Low Thia Kiang.
Voting is also a very left-brain structured activity and people normally will vote for the same party unless they are jolted out of their comfort zone drastically. Some may even vote for the same party even though they have suffered adversely from certain policies.
I have spoken to a few voters who have swung their votes and they told me that they have lost their jobs, faced bankruptcy, lost their families or their homes. It is always something personal that affected them deeply and most have taken the easy path of pinning their blame on the government even though they themselves are to be blamed for their own plight.
It does not help that Singaporeans tied their votes pretty much to the prevailing economic situation they are in ensuring that swing votes are aplenty if the opposition knows how to lure them out of their loyalty. Its also obvious that swing votes will be high if the encomy is still in tantrums – which is the case now even though we have high GDP and alot of nice rosy date to show otherwise.
Moreover, our government has being using the “Vote for me and I will take care of you” slogan all this while and when voters could not relate themselves to such a promise, they will not hesitate to swing their votes to the opposition.
So who will actually be the swing voters during this coming election?
There is actually a huge group of displaced executives who still could not find work readily after been retrenched during the global financial crisis – most of them have even loyally casted their votes for the government all this while and why not if you are doing well?
However, during these past few years, many personally experienced the wrath of the government’s policy in allowing too many foreigners to our shore. Most of these displaced executives have distinctive educational record, have climbed through the social ladder through meritocracy and are in fact model examples of the perfect Singapore Dream. However, the recent financial crisis has brought many of these high-flyers down to their knees and they are not hopeful that the current policies are serving them well.
Many who managed to find work have to bear with under employment as they desperately took on jobs many rungs below their previous position at much lower pay in order to survive.
This group of Singaporeans have to downgrade their lifestyle drastically as they tried to adjust their standard of living accordingly. They felt that life is not the same anymore and moving forward, a change may be necessary or else their situation will not get any better.
Significantly, this group of well-educated Singaporeans not hesitate to forsake their loyalty to the ruling party and cast their vote for the opposition – more in a statement of protest than pledging willing allegiance to the opposition.
Swing voters are smart people who know how to use their votes wisely. They know that if enough swing votes are being cast, the government may yield to the adverse voting pressure and relent by amending certain policies to suit the needs of the affected voters.
Personally, I believe that many swing voters could not vote due to the fault of the opposition parties in not wanting to contest all the seats during past elections.
I foresee that our frustrated displaced executives will form roughly 3% of the total voters numbering around 60, 000 voters if all two million eligible Singaporean voters are allowed to cast their votes this time round. About 1.5% of this group could belong to swing voters i.e. they have switch camp and now root for the opposition.
Fresh Young Voters
As many as 50, 000 new young voters have came on board after the previous election and this is a significant number.
Many of them grew up with the internet, facebook and other social networking engines and have not build their allegiance to any party yet. Fresh-faced, wide-eyed and literally thrown into the fiery fires of the global financial crisis, many have yet taste the fruits of their efforts.
I saw that Reform Party manages to win a small group of these young voters over to be their members. Contrary to the popular misnomer that our youth is politically apathetic, I find that they can be politically stirred and are better engaged via our popular socio-political websites – which are incidentally mainly anti-establishment in tone. They clearly prefer a non-traditional way of interaction and the internet provides them the means to challenge certain fixed political mindsets here without having to reveal their true identity. Many became armchair political critics and visited socio-political blogs almost on a daily basis for political stimulation.
We saw how UMNO lost a huge parliamentary majority during the 2009 election due mainly to the adverse influence of political boggers.
It is for this reason that the Prime Minister Office has recently decided to gazette the TOC blog to be a political association so that its influence can be curtailed through legislation.
The government’s fear is warranted as young voters are easily influenced and may even be persuaded to vote for the opposition candidates.
Many youth in their early 20s have seen how their parents struggle to make ends meet and some of these young voters also find it tough themselves to ekk out a living after graduation.
Those who have fallen out of the mainstream educational path face a much tougher journey afterwards and I am sure that they will vote for the opposition without much hesitation.
Its also sad that the general pathway for most successful Singaporeans is through the narrow graduate education system and how many have made it through polytechnics or universities here? Not more than 40% perhaps…the rest have to fend for themselves the arduous way throughout their life.
This means that as many as half of the 50,000 young fresh voters will have no hesitation to vote for the opposition even the mirage of barriers faced by the ruling party to win them over.
The ruling party has its work cut out for them as most of its policies are really out-dated and moreover, its closed-up top-down governance system does not go down well with this group of young voters.
The middle-aged family voters will not hesitate to vote for the ruling party if they have no grievance with the crucial bread-and-butter issue but not for the younger voters.
They want change, openness, more freedom of speech and be able to speak out freely without the fear of being hammered down. So far, we only have a hybrid democratic system and this does not please our young voters.
The ruling party has not being able to engage these young voters even though they have tried their best and I am afraid that this failure may prove crucial when it comes to those closely-fought seats.
I am actually amazed at the huge divorced community we have in Singapore. Its also saddening to note that most of the newly divorced people I know are also unemployed.
It seems that in Singapore, joblessness and divorce go hand in hand.
Out of an average of 23,000 marriages registered per year, at least 7,000 will end in a divorce (source: MCYS).
This trend has being going on for the past five years and seems unabated.
One main reason for this high divorce rate is the lack of finances that many families face as either the breadwinner could not find ready employment after being retrenched during the global financial crisis or they have not being able to make enough for the whole family to survive on.
Many lower middle-incomed families will face a massive financial crunch when they are jobless for more than six months. Most families nowadays could not last more than 6 months if the breadwinner is jobless as by then most of their savings will be gone.
They have to resort to borrowing from friends and relatives to get by after that.
Many of such cash-strapped families also realised that the government could not provide them with any welfare funds while they are out job searching desperately. After the 2008 financial crisis, jobs were scant and many of the unemployed hunt vainlessly for work – many suffering the backlash of a family breakup in the process.
What good is it to vote for a government who could not help when you are at your lowest ebb? Worse still, when they approach the many support centres round the country, they found that they could not qualify for many schemes due either to their flat size or that their wives are currently still working.
They have fallen through the social support crack and this group will not hesitate to switch their loyalty to the opposition camp during this coming election. Moreover, most Singaporeans tend to have this blame syndrome and who is the easiest to target your grievances on?
If half of the 50,000 divorced families decided to swing their votes, this will represent about 2% of the total voting population.
We all know that those who have emigrated are mostly anti-establishment and few are friends of the ruling party. If not, they will not opt to leave the country – many leaving their ailing parents behind.
However, the limited polling overseas offices mean that less than 2000 overseas voters so far have registered to vote abroad as some are unwilling to travel extensively just to cast their votes.
For example, in Australia where there is a huge 30,000-strong Singaporean migrant population, Canberra is the only polling station available and few want to travel so far in order to vote.
For someone living in Sydney, he may need to take a 2-hour flight to Canberra and another hour of drive on the road in order to vote and we are only talking about one way.
Moreover, many Singaporeans who have migrated have opted to take on foreign citizenship rendering them ineligible to vote.
This is a big setback for the opposition camp as most Singaporeans living abroad are anti-establishment and their weak presence at the coming polls must be seen as a huge victory for the ruling party.
Many citizens of our minorities races have not really benefitted from the meritocracy philosophy of the country. They are ill represented at the universities, professional sectors and middle-income earners.
Worse still, they are over represented at the prisons, drug rehab centres and lower-income groups and do not seem to be plugged in to our society’s mainstream.
In fact, due to certain loop-sided policies, they feel excluded and even discriminated against by the largely Chinese majority population.
For example, certain sectors of the army service are still excluded from the Malay community and for this, citizens of this particular race have never really feel that they belonged here.
Thus, out of frustration, many Malays have since migrated to Australia, New Zealand and Canada as they feel like second-class citizens in their own country. The figures of our Malay citizens who have migrated could be as high as 30,000 – 40,000. Again, their voting apathy abroad is a sad loss for the opposition camp.
For those who stay behind, as many as three-quarter of our Malay voters may have voted for the opposition parties all along and swing voters are easy to be swayed over if the opposition knows how to pitch their campaigning speeches at them.
Its also a smart move by the ruling party to disperse the Malay and Indian communities throughout the various precincts via the HDB racial quota system as if not they could have easily vote in the opposition candidates collectively as a group.
Many single people are unhappy with the housing policy of the government. Currently, they do not enjoy any subsidy for new flats as the government is bias towards the married couples. Its a policy that the singles have all along complained to be discriminating against their marital status.
They have to resort to purchasing HDB resale flats in the open market, which are now in sky-high cost or private properties. Many simply give up when they could not match the strong buying purse of the foreigners or double-incomed couples and stay with their ageing parents.
Those who could afford to purchase their own properties have to pay through their nose alone and when they lose their jobs, many have to give up their properties as they do not have the back up finances of their other partner like married people do.
Voters who are singles and sitting on the fence make good swing voters. Their main grimace is the old-fashioned housing rule and it is no fun to feel excluded in your own country.
They also vote for themselves solely unlike married people who have to think of their families’ welfare before placing their vote.
Most middle-income married people will vote for the ruling party to maintain the stability and status quo of the country’s economy. They will not want to rock the political boat too much by bringing in a host of opposition candidates into parliament for fear that investors will pull off their investment money due to the uncertainty factor.
In an election that is evisaged to be closely fought in many constituencies, swing voters will likely be those that both the ruling and opposition parties will desperately want to win over. They belong to the minorities races, young adults, singles, displaced executives and even overseas Singaporeans.
Most of them can be won over if the opposition candidates know how to pitch their campaign speeches as all of them have their personal grievances against the ruling party.
Most or all of the constituencies’ seats will be contested this time round and we will truly witness the proper voting pattern of our eligible voters.
Some people of my age group have not voted in their entire life before due to the walkover effect and they will be very glad to vote for the very first time now.
I was fortunate enough to vote in three elections before and I have swung my vote during the last election.
No prize for guessing which party I have swung it to…
Written by: Gilbert GohNumber of View: 6944