The Hougang by-election conundrum has been capturing the attention of perceptive Singaporeans for some time, if not for anything, at least for the antics of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to see how long he is going to hold out in calling for a by-election in Hougang SMC which has become vacant as a result of the expulsion of the Workers' Party MP Yaw Shin Leong by the WP for extra-marital affairs. By right the by-election should be called as soon as possible within a three-month period, but it is not surprising to discerning Singaporeans that PM Lee saw it fit to put it on hold sine die. He said he would take into account all relevant factors and these include Hougang residents' well-being, issues on the national agenda and the international backdrop that "affects our prosperity and security".
Let's examine to see if PM Lee is not saying all these things with a tongue-in-cheek to try to justify his untenable arguments to put off sine die the holding of the Hougang by-election which he fears would be a Waterloo to the PAP. It is axiomatic that Hougang residents' well-being will be served if an MP is elected in the by-election to represent them. At present they are under-represented in Parliament. What kind of issues can there be on the national agenda that could not comfortably accommodate the holding of an important by-election? By no stretch of imagination can the international backdrop that "affects our prosperity and security" have the significance of dissuading us to hold a by-election, except to use it by the powers that be as a plausible pretence.
The consensus among discerning Singaporeans is that PM Lee and his ministers lack credible confidence in winning the Hougang SMC in a by-election under the present circumstances against a WP candidate. The former Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang has made sure, through his years of nurturing the constituency, that it will be a safe seat for a WP candidate. The adoption of a "New Normal" in Singapore politics by the PAP following their poor showing in the last General Election in 2011 has not enhanced the reputation of the PAP in the eyes of discerning Singaporeans, So the PAP leaders, especially PM Lee, are worried sick that a Hougang by-election will not only be a reprise of the PAP debacle in the Hougang SMC in the last GE but worse still if the margin of defeat is increased which is not impossible considering the unhappiness of the Hougang electors who are obviously pissed off with the antics of PM Lee in delaying the by-election. PM Lee may be under the illusion that he is adored by all Singaporeans, especially the Hougang residents. This inglorious defeat, if it happens, may possibly be regarded as a referendum of disapprobation of the PAP by discerning Singaporeans. PM Lee will ignore this development at his peril.
The lesson to be learnt in all this is that the more PM Lee procrastinates in calling for a Hougang by-election the greater will be the repercussion.