What happened to the anticipated win by the opposition of a few Single Member Constituencies and Group Representation Constituencies? Opposition parties instead saw their share of the vote plummet in GE2015 by as much as 16 plus percent from GE2011.
Some say that the government‘s tweaking of immigration policies along with the introduction of welfare schemes such as the Pioneer Generation Package and Medishield Life rekindled Singaporeans’ trust in the People’s Action Party. And so on 11 September 2015 they gave the party a clear mandate with a 70% share of the vote.
After much thought, I think it boils down to several factors.
The PAP’s SG50 celebration strategy – tying the success of Singapore solely to the leadership of the PAP – worked as planned. A majority of Singaporeans apparently agreed with the argument that they should be grateful to PAP for transforming Singapore from a mere fishing village (which is not true) into a bustling metropolis ranked top in the world (including in the cost of living).
The passing of Singapore’s first Prime Minister and founding member of PAP, Lee Kuan Yew, in late March this year also would have garnered a certain percentage of sympathy votes for the PAP.
Then there were the stop gap measures to address rising housing prices with more subsidies and to tackle transportation issues by subsidising transport operators by paying for additional buses to extend bus services. These appear to have satisfied many Singaporeans’ concerns about the rising cost of housing and our poor standards of public transportation compared to other developed cities.
To top that up, banners, posters, advertorial, promotional ads were around the whole nation (in dialect for the old folks as well) to say how much the PAP government cares for the people.
But I think the biggest factor may have been the sense people were getting during the election campaign that support was growing for the opposition. To the surprise of some media watchers, the newspapers ran on their front pages images of the huge crowds at opposition rallies.
This may have led some to think there was a possibility that the opposition would win many seats. The bookies’ predictions that went viral may have reinforced this impression, so voters who generally support the PAP but who had been thinking of voting against them to register unhappiness with something or other decided to play safe and vote for them. And thus the overwhelming support for the PAP.
Looking at a few constituencies for example,
|Holland Bukit Timah||60.08||39.92||20.16||66.6||33.4||33.2||6.72|
|Nee Soon GRC||58.4||41.6||16.8||66.8||33.2||33.6||8.4|
|Bishan Toa Payoh||56.93||43.07||13.86||73.6||26.4||47.2||16.67|
Despite the Singapore Democratic Party and Workers’ Party having credible line-ups of candidates, and manifestos that were well thought through, they, along with the other opposition parties, suffered a major drop in vote share compared to GE2011.
So it would seem that it does not really matter whether the opposition is credible or not – a majority of the people prefer that the PAP continues to run the country and that the status quo and their pace of life are maintained. This is more important to them than the opposition’s argument that Singapore needs a stronger system of checks and balances in parliament.
Some have said it was the new citizens who accounted for the huge swing of votes. I do not agree that they were the main factor. The swing towards the PAP was too great to have been just their doing.
The one thing that is clear about GE2015 is that Singaporeans are not ready for change. And the opposition continues to face major obstacles, such as the regular redrawing of electoral boundaries to suit the ruling party and its control in one way or another of grassroots organisations and the media.
So what now?
50 years of living under the rule… I mean running of the government by PAP has made Singaporeans used to the ideology that one has to sacrifice liberal rights for the sake of national prosperity and the right to walk on the streets at 3am without being mugged.
What opposition needs to do is not to find the next Chen Shao Mao, nor to come up with a Nobel winning economic reform policy for its manifesto but to slowly have the electorate understand that there can be gradual change to the political landscape of Singapore, without having an abrupt power transition that people fear might throw Singapore’s economics into chaos.
However, the parties cannot perform such a task without the help of media which are in one way or another influenced by the PAP. Therefore, either the parties should explore on how to extend its reach to the common folks through the use of modern technology or to have an independent media outlet to balance the odds against the biased mainstream media.
As for the incumbent, while the people has clearly given a 70% mandate to them but let’s not forget the surprise it had in 2011 when people voted against them out for pure frustration. Should it take the votes for granted again, voters might once again voice their displeasure via the polling booths in the next General Election. Given the shock that many might have gotten for voting against a freak election for PAP, this experience might harden one’s resolution to once and for all to vote for the opposition despite any reservation.
The true battle is yet to come.