By Savvy Artist
People talk about a "swing" towards PAP in the GE 2015 votes compared to the last election in 2011. Many Singaporeans are disappointed because the outcome seems to contradict the evidence on the ground.
The turnouts for opposition rallies, especially those of the WP, were much bigger than the last election. Social media also reflected the sentiments of the majority of Singaporeans months and years leading to the election.
Almost everyone in coffee shops and among friends had a bone to pick with the PAP. And the ranting went on since the last election. Singaporeans have been ranked the world's unhappiest people and we all know the cause of this. Even new political opportunists jumped onto the campaigning bandwagon this time round. Internet videos show Singaporeans booing and avoiding PAP candidates while they campaign.
Yet, the results fail to match the sentiments on the ground. This sentiment is further confirmed by the size of the turnouts of people at PAP winning speeches last night. This morning I saw a large group of men wearing white standing at Bedok market, as if waiting for residents to come up to congratulate them. But none went up to them.
PAP candidate, Lim Swee Say had to go and shake the hands of a few foreigners who work at the shops. The MIW left in a jiffy.
On first reaction, it seems that there must be some rigging going on with the results. Why are there so few supporters (other than those wearing white) at the winning speeches? Why introduce the release of the sample counting? What are they up to this time round?
However, on further reflection, it is quite obvious that the "swing" came from the following groups of Singaporeans:
The Pioneer Generation: this population segment was an easy target for the PAP. These elders were literally won over with generous subsidies and personal selling. This group is unlikely to come out and support their heros.
New Citizens: needless to say. Why jeopardise a future in "paradise"? Why show their faces at PAP rallies when they know they are hated all over?
Government employees: like most Singaporean voters, they desire to vote for the opposition but despite their unhappiness with the PAP, they are obligated to vote for them. Same reason as new citizens - why jeopardise my position at work? But they would not want their neighbours to know that they will secretly voted for PAP.
The poor: this group may be the most vocal against the PAP. But many of these are on subsidies and are dependent on monthly handouts from the government. Even though their desire is to vote for the opposition, they see a threat that their lifeline might be cut off.
Government contractors: numerous businesses and proprietors are making a living as a result of government contracts and projects. The HDB upgrading programmes with thousands of contractors and sub contractors is a tool to retain votes. I doubt any one of them would want to put their livelihood at risks. What about other industrial sectors? Many more in the same situation despite their complaints about increasing cost of doing business and scrapping for a living.
Other Govt-reliant Persons: would they vote for the opposition if they are waiting for a housing loan from the HDB or a medical subsidy or a scholarship? Or for that matter would they vote for the opposition if they have just received such benefits? How many types of subsidies are there? Just imagine..
Now, all these above groups of people may sit at coffee shops, attack PAP policies and attend opposition rallies instead of PAP rallies. However, they will eventually secretly vote PAP because of fear of losing their benefits.
The conclusion is this: the PAP has leverage over the voting of the above groups of Singaporeans. Also, the election system has been designed by the PAP: GRC, electoral boundary redrawing, revealing campaigning date with little forewarning, etc. They have a two-pronged winning strategy. - which will be hard to beat as the number of subsidies keep increasing. This is their new strategy and it is working. Also, they have resorted to sales tactics like "home visits" and counselling centres.
So, do not read PAP's win as a mandate from the people of Singapore. If it were so, Singaporeans all over the island would be jubilant this morning. But their faces are clearly depressed and disappointed. They feel even more dejected and helpless than 2011. Clearly, PAP does not have the heart and the mandate of the people.
So, who are PAP's real supporters?
RC Members: Every few blocks has a RC chairman and members, with a hierarchy of chairmans and members across each precinct. All of them are benefitting from various "perks". This is a large group even without including their family members who are also voters. They are the ones in white supporting the PAP at rallies. But they alone cannot make up the winning votes.
Who Are The Opposition Supporters?
The only group that PAP has no power over is the educated, working adults. These are the most economically active Singaporeans. They are those who are waiting for jobs, building families and have school-going children and can see that the government policies are not benefitting them and their future. This is the vocal and eloquent group you find on social media. Unfortunately, this group is now outnumbered by the above groups as the election outcome shows.
PAP's strategy is very simple: Keep you needy. Depend on their subsidies. Then you have to vote for them. This is what everyone has to be wary of., including the opposition parties.
Politics is all about leverage and the PAP has it. What leverage has the opposition got?