Why Dr Chee will likely lose in Bukit Batok by-election despite hard effort and warm reception

Yup, you read that headline. Chee Soon Juan, the Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party and its candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election, is likely to lose, even though he has done his very best, and focused discussions solely on policies that he and his party hope to implement for Bukit Batok residents.

The article, “Bukit Batok By-Election: Which way would it go?” shared an in-depth analysis of Dr Chee’s situation. In the 2015 General Election, SDP only won 6,585 votes, or 26.4%, in the three-corner fight. For SDP to win in this by-election, there needs to be a swing of 24%. In comparison, when Workers’ Party’s candidate, Lee Li Lian won the Punggol East by-election in 2013, they achieved a swing of 13.49%.

Take a look at this video of his walkabout, where residents approach him to express their support, and note the diversity in races and age groups.

While I agree that Dr Chee has improved his chances of winning the by-election since the beginning of his campaign, we all know that voters tend to make their decision on cooling off day, especially when there is a choice between a promising and capable opposition candidate and the ruling party’s candidate.

Do the residents want to lose their upgrading, like what Potong Pasir had to put up with for decades?

Do they want their appeals to respective ministries be delayed or stalled because their MP is from the opposition?

Of course, such fears are supposedly unwarranted, especially since Mr Murali has clarified that the upgrading plans for Bukit Batok will continue regardless who wins the election and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had called for the civil service to be non-partisan. But it should be noted that such worries are still relevant to voters across the generations and racial groups. Even today, voter secrecy is still doubted by some voters, particularly the older generation, due to the serial numbers on voting slips and the fact that their name and IC numbers are tallied against it.

It’s a strange situation that Singapore is in. A poorly-qualified candidate might get votes from those who want to deny the PAP a large margin (and therefore take them down a peg), while others might be afraid of voting for a strong candidate like Dr Chee, just in case he actually wins. This, in my opinion, is the reason for the results in the 2015 General Election.

If Dr Chee is elected, it’s a sign that voters are now willing to take a risk for the overall development of democracy in the country.

But if he loses, Dr Chee and his party can take comfort in the knowledge that they did not lose due to an inability to convince voters, but due to the perverted mechanism of social schemes, the People’s Association, the lack of press freedom, the fear of repercussions from a vindictive ruling party and ultimately, the lack of urgency for change.

However, should the PAP candidate win, liberal-minded individuals need not despair because there should be a new drive to dismantle the Group Representative Constituency (GRC) system, since Murali Pillai’s win would demonstrate that ethnic minorities can win on their own steam.