The opposition are perennial underdogs while the People’s Action Party are proverbial top dogs.
When one side wins, victory is so sweet, so hard-fought and hard-won. When the other side wins, it is kind of expected and hollow – the feeling you get when you use a bazooka to overwhelm somebody who’s wielding a sledgehammer.
It has always been David versus Goliath in a battle that is heavily skewed towards one side. The odds are stacked against the opposition from start to finish.
Without moving house, Singaporeans often find themselves switching constituency as a result of redrawn electoral boundaries. The ruling party says it’s due to population trends but observers and the opposition say it’s guided by voting trends.
Eunos GRC, which twice gave the PAP an almighty scare, was subsequently dismantled and redrawn into several constituencies. Braddell Heights SMC, which the PAP won by a narrow margin, got absorbed into Marine Parade GRC. Joo Chiat SMC, which the PAP won by an even narrower margin, got absorbed into Marine Parade GRC. Just three examples among many.
Clearly, the way electoral boundaries are redrawn has nothing to do with population trends – it has everything to do with voting trends!
The group representation constituency (GRC) system leaves voters with no choice but to vote for an entire slate of candidates, take it or leave it. And it unfairly enables PAP candidates to hang onto the coattails of Ministers and get into Parliament, some without even having to make a speech. Does that happen anywhere else in the world?
How about the series of prime time national broadcasts that are essentially election speeches in the lead-up to an election yet to be called? They have already started running even before the starting pistol is fired. Fair play be damned!
This time around, we also have a COVID-19 election with restrictions like no physical rallies, and the spectre of permanent secretaries for all 16 ministries exercising the powers of the ministers under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).
Despite the overwhelming odds, David still manages to sometimes upstage Goliath. Then what happens? Opposition Members of Parliament cannot be advisers to grassroots organisations. The People’s Association says this is because they cannot be expected to promote government activities.
Losing PAP candidates are instead placed in opposition wards as grassroots advisers so they can maintain a ground presence, engage with residents and dangle carrots.
So even when the opposition wins, they have to contend with double standards
But Minister Chan Chun Sing, Deputy Chairman of PA, brushed off concerns: “I will be the last person to ever allow the People’s Association to be politicised.”
While the PA has been working hand in glove with the ruling party for 60 years, so too the National Trades Union Congress which has a close “symbiotic” relationship with the PAP. This enables the NTUC to administer government schemes and throw the full weight of support behind presidential candidates such as Halimah Yacob and Tony Tan.
Given the state of play, Singaporeans should be jolted into asking: What happened to fairness, justice and equality in a democratic society?
Unless we give the underdogs a fighting chance, they will be overwhelmed by the might of the top dogs in election after election that threatens to become more lopsided with each cycle.