Saturday, May 7, 2011

The PAP's Waterloo in Aljunied

What has disquieted the PAP leaders, especially PM Lee Hsien Loong, about the possible loss of the much-vaunted Aljunied GRC has finally come to pass. With this defeat, Foreign Minister George Yeo, Minister Lim Hwee Hua and Senior Minister of State Zainul Abidin Rasheed have now lost their official positions. When the Workers' Party (WP) put its best team of Secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, Chairman Sylvia Lim and star candidate Chen Show Mao on Nomination Day to contest in Aljunied GRC, the party was going for broke in its effort to capture the GRC. The Chinese describe it as: To smash the cooking vessels and sink the boats (破釜沉舟). It means that WP has to succeed because there is no retreat. This now proves to be a correct strategy first adopted with success by the ancient Chinese feudal prince Xiang Yu (项羽).

Although not entirely unexpected, the Aljunied defeat came as a shock to PM Lee and his Cabinet colleagues. One of the biggest contributory factors to this political setback was the gratutious warning by the hubristic Minister Mentor to Aljunied voters that they live and repent if they voted the WP. Another factor could be the soured Malay ground which was angered by the disparaging remarks on Malay integration by MM Lee. Of course the important factor is the eager desire of Singapore voters to see more opposition MPs in Parliament as a check to the PAP.

This is acknowleged by PM Lee at his press conference following the announcement of the election results. He could not hide his disappointment at the Aljunied defeat and indicated that he would arrange for alternative assignments for the defeated ministers. George Yeo has been an outstanding Foreign Minister and his experiences should stand him in good stead for any diplomatic or non-diplomatic assignment. It will be a great loss to the country if his talent is overlooked.

There was complete unity among the opposition parties and the fact that this did not translate to the capturing of more GRCs and SMCs when the voters' mood was in their favour is an incomprehensible question. What makes it more puzzling is that there was no dearth of high quality candidates put up by the opposition parties who could match the quality of PAP candidates. However, the PAP managed only to win the Joo Chiat SMC and the Potong Pasir SMC by the skin of their teeth. The results were so close that the outcome could have gone the way of the opposition. The share of valid votes garnered by the PAP dropped by 6.5 percentage point to 60.1 per cent compared to 66.6 per cent in 2006.

Although the creation of the GRCs is seen by the opposition as a PAP scheme to shackle their electoral ambitions and facilitate the backdoor entry into Parliament of untested new candidates, the WP's win in Aljunied GRC shows that it can demolish this PAP invincibility if there is steely determination. WP has now to show that it can manage and administer Aljunied GRC as well as, if not better than, the PAP. The PAP has vowed that it will retake Aljinied GRC in five years, so this will be a challenge to the WP to excel. Above all, WP MPs will be watched very closely by the Singapore public for their performance in Parliament, now that they have eight MPs. Mr. Chen Show Mao will be the centre of public attention. This will be a good beginning for WP and Singaporeans can look forward to seeing more excitement in Parliamentary proceedings. And the PAP will have some soul-searching to do.


Han said...


Onto something which is tangentially relevant at the moment. Will the Presidency election later in the year again, will not be to PAP's liking? In the sense that with LHL in place, we now need a "real" President to provide the counter balance to the (still) overwhelming power of the PAP?

alveolate said...

i would wager that the main reason the PAP still won an obscene number of seats in parliament is the GRC system PLUS the gratuitous illegal gerrymandering. further, the campaign period is insanely short, the message could not be brought deeply enough into older voters' minds and hearts, which are still strongly encumbered by PAP-instilled fear.

the fact that PAP won shouldn't be surprising, but simply worrying. their half-baked policies and lack of transparency or accountability could spell the end of our financial strength when the next economic crisis hits (which seems very likely seeing as how the US is still screwing around with deregulation). S$58b was lost by Temasek Holdings with zero culpability - not even an announcement or apology. what will happen next? CPF withdrawal age pushed to 70? max withdrawal capped at $5k? HDB/COE/GST to double again? now that we have the Finance Minister CONFLATED with the Manpower Minister, will we see even more foreigners who seem to be the ones capable of bringing in the dough?

i pray that Singaporeans find some miraculous way to survive the next 5 years. we had our chance to vote some sense into parliament; we failed.

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