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Tuesday August 13th 2019

Six methods used by PAP to stay in power forever

There are several methods used by the PAP to stay in power forever:-

1. No estate upgrading for opposition wards

The government has being using this upgrading fear to dissuade many voters from voting the opposition though it is their preferred choice of vote.

In 1992, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced that wards that voted for the PAP would be given priority for upgrading programmes. This was revived again at the 1997 General Election.

On the eve of Polling Day, Mr Goh went one step further: The Government would drill down to the voting patterns at the precinct level (clusters of around 10 blocks) in determining which neighbours to upgrade first. The strategy was employed in both the 1997 and 2001 elections, helping the PAP clinch 65 per cent and 75 per cent of the votes respectively (Sunday Times, 23 Sep 2018)

Pragmatic Singaporeans – used to reap a considerable amount of profit from selling their BTO flats – succumbed to this ungentlemantly tactic and either vote for the PAP or spoil their vote in order to ensure that their estate will enjoy upgrading.

Nevertheless, this tactic may not work so much now as the new BTO flats are priced so high that any profit made from the sales proceed is seldom more than $100,000. Moreover, the HDB leasehold of 99 years is a more pressing issue now than any upgrading withdrawal as many flats that have less than 60 years of lease struggle to get any potential buyers in the market – with or without upgrading work.

Used virally by the second Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1990s, this upgrading fear tactic is almost unheard of in GE 2015 and probably in this coming GE.

The Main Upgrading Programme (MUP) is a town council-initiated estate upgrading project aims to restore many of our ageing flats and usually announced months before the GE with significant threats made of the upgrading withdrawal during campaigning if certain wards are to fall to the opposition. This is usually targetted at hotly-contested wards such as Marine Parade,  Tampines or Moulmein.

To this day, no one can ascertain how successful the estate upgrading fear has worked in the favour of the incumbent but the fall of Aljunied GRC in 2011 showed that any GRC can still gold given the right opposition party and candidates involved.

2. Serial numbers on voting card

About 7 to 8 days before voting, each voter will receive a polling card stating his constituency and where his voting station will be. On the right hand side of the card is a serial number which till today nobody at the Election Department can truly verify it’s legitimacy.

The Election Department on it’s website has this to say: “The serial number on the ballot paper is to protect the integrity of the democratic process. It enables strict accounting of all ballot papers issued and cast, and guards against counterfeiting and voter impersonation. ”

This serial number has created much fear among the older Merdeka Generation who is worried that voting is not secret and that their votes can be traced which incidentally is true if the government wanted to.

Moreover, on polling day itself, the Presiding officer will call out the names and identity card number of the voter before he casts his vote at the station, intensifying the fear he has of the whole voting experience.

I have spoken to one particular Presiding Officer who has such a booming voice while reading out the voter’s particulars during my candidacy at Tampines GRC in 2011, whether he could lower his voice as I could hear him clearly across the carpark. He told me that they were instructed to read out loudly and audibly so that there won’t be any mistaken identity!

I doubt this audible public pronouncement of the voter’s name and identity is used anywhere in the world during election.

However, it has worked well as I witnessed many jittery elderly voters quickly vote and get out of the chilling polling station. I am sure many who have wanted to vote in the opposition would have changed their mind on that fateful day and voted otherwise.

3. Persecution and law suit against opposition candidates

Lee Kuan Yew perfected the art of persecuting and suing opposition candidates in his reign. Workers’ Party candidates such as late Jb Jeyeretnam, late Francis Seow and even the current  crop of WP stewards Low Thia Kiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh could not escape the famed PAP persecution.

The suit tactic works so well that many opposition parties could not gather any candidates to contest in general election. Those who joined as candidates then were also dubious characters with one independent candidate even wearing slippers to file in his candidacy nomination papers and never hold any campaigning nor give a single speech before the election.

It was only in GE 2011 that the opposition mustered enough resources to contest 82 of the 87 seats offered giving many Singaporeans the chance to vote – many for the first times especially in PAP-favoured wards such as Tanjung Pagar, Jurong and Sembawang.

There has not being a single suit filed against any opposition party or candidate since 2011 less the WP town council one and this impasse has sparked off a frantic rise of interest especially among the young millennial generation to join the opposition parties.

4. Group Representation Constituency

The Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was proposed in GE 1988 with many critics saying that it highly favoured the incumbent. It’s main purpose is to have a minority race representing the population in a certain constituency so that power is not focused on one main race.

Forced to locate a minority race candidate in a group of 3 to 6 candidates contesting a GRC, many opposition parties have cried foul that the contest disadvantaged them as they have lesser resources to select from.

However, the loss of Aljunied GRC in 2011 and two ministers consequently showed that given the right circumstances and candidates, a GRC can be won and is even seen as a vulnerable weakness of the whole Singapore electorate system.

All it takes is two to three heavyweights in the mould of Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Lee Hsien Yang and the GRC veil looks less invincible and fallible.

The GRC is likely to favour the incumbent and any strong opposition party up to the task of grooming 5 to 6 abled candidates for the contest of representing the people in Parliament.

5. Media

The government has being able to control the mass media so far till the internet revolution makes its mark in the 2000s.

Alternative news sites such as The Online Citizen, The Independent Sg and Temasek Review have came under intense government’s scrutiny especially before the election but the recent Fake News legislation has intensified the noose among the few independent news media.

The strong hold of the public media has also lessened somewhat of late as people flock to a more balanced free media which promises independence and minimal censorship.

It is unforeseeable how the government can regain the monopoly on media again unless it autocratically closes down all the alternative news media making it seen like a communist regime.

It can merely harass and threaten them but they are virtually untouchable and depending on how courageous the editors of these independent media are – they can change the course of the whole election.

The Malaysian election was thought to be widely shaped by independent news sites such as Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Today and Sarawak Report though some were forced to close down briefly during the former PM Najib’s reign. The Malaysian Insider has gone defunct since 2016 amid financial losses and a government’s clampdown.

Across the causeway, Singapore also witnessed the loss of a independent news media The Real Singapore when two of the three editors were convicted and jailed for spreading fake news via a sedition charge in 2016.

Unless the independent news media report accurately and responsibly, the authorities will probably not hesitant to clamp down on our alternative media and that will be a shame for the country.

6. New citizens

The new citizen votes seem to be the master winning card of the incumbent as each year close to 6000 new citizens will be included into the electorate building up to a strong credible pool of 20,000 to 25,000 loyal voters before each election.

It is perceived that at least for the first time of voting, this huge increasing pool of new citizens will vote for the incumbent more out of loyalty than anything else. This is understandable especially if most of the new citizens hail from third world countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam or China.

Of course, over the years, some will vote against the government as they too have suffered the same fate as most native Singaporeans.

As the Election Department falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s office, the re-drawing of boundaries before each election tends to favour the incumbent as they know where these new loyal voters reside and people living as far away as Sengkang are noted to have come under the AMK GRC.

Of the six reasons listed here, new citizens are probably the ones that will ensure the PAP stays in power perpetually even though they may lose a GRC or two.

Written by:  Gilbert Goh

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