Recently I’ve been interested in psephology, the statistical study of elections. It is an imprecise science, but economics is also dismally inaccurate at times, so I’m not deterred by its lack of predictability power. As I’ve lived in Bukit Batok most of my life, and for many of my family (grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts etc, which makes CNY visits so convenient) even decades, I was curious about the voting trends of Bukit Batok residents.
Bukit Batok as a distinct ward appeared on the map in 1972. From my understanding, Bukit Batok was once a collection of slums, shops and factories which was developed into a town in the late 1970s (when my grandparents shifted from their kampong into their current HDB flats). Luckily the scenic Guilin quarry and Bukit Batok Nature Park were preserved. Anyway, these are the results of elections since 1972:
1972 – PAP vs. UNF: 73.78 to 26.22 percent
1976 – PAP vs. SJP: 84.57 to 15.43 percent
1980 – Uncontested
1984 – PAP vs. UPF: 78.27 to 21.73 percent
1988 – PAP vs. SDP: 55.94 to 44.06 percent
1991 – PAP vs. SDP: 51.82 to 48.18 percent
1997…Bo liao lor! Magicked into Bukit Timah GRC, walkover
2001…Apparated into Jurong GRC, contested by SDP: 79.75 to 20.25 percent
2006 – Walkover
From 1972 to 1984, the PAP MP Chai Chong Yii fended off attacks from three different parties, scoring more than 70 percent of votes each time. He also happened to be a junior minister. Considering that Bukit Batok was a relatively new town in the 70s and 80s, residents probably voted for PAP so that they would receive attention and resources for development. Hence in 1988, when Bukit Batok was more developed, and Chai was replaced by a fresh PAP candidate, Dr Ong Chit Chung, more residents might have been willing to vote for an opposition candidate, especially for one whose leader was already in Parliament (Chiam See Tong). However, the 1980s and 1991 elections saw a nationwide drop in support for the PAP, so Bukit Batok was falling in line with national trends.
In 1991, four single-seat constituencies were lost to the opposition with a concomitant fall in popular votes for the PAP. They were Potong Pasir (69.64), Hougang (52.82), Bukit Gombak (51.4) and Nee Soon Central (50.33). As we all know, the former two are now considered opposition strongholds tied to their respective MPs’ personalities, while Bukit Gombak and Nee Soon Central were subsequently retaken by the PAP in the next elections. Furthermore in the 1991 elections, a few PAP wards came perilously close to falling into opposition hands. They were Braddell Heights (52.27), Bukit Batok (51.82), Changi (53), Eunos (52.38; 3-men GRC) and Nee Soon South (52.76). All of them went into the Vanishing Cabinet in the 1997 elections. Hmm.
To put the fight in Bukit Batok into a more micro perspective, the total number of invalid votes AND number of people who did not turn up (voting is compulsory in S’pore hor) were larger than the PAP’s narrow margin of victory. History might have changed.
So I nearly live in a would-be opposition ward, lol. But anyway, Bukit Batok, as part of Bukit Timah GRC and then Jurong GRC, saw only one contest in 14 years. Not even my MP’s death in 2008 led to by-elections. Later, two Nominated MPs tried to move a motion for the govt to ensure by-elections would be called once a MP resigns or passes away. One might think it is commonsensical, but it is fully the PM’s discretion to call or NOT call elections, even if the seat remains unfilled. This is despite a straw poll taken, where more people agree than those who disagree that by-elections should be held. But PM Lee responded vaguely, and so Dr Ong’s seat remains vacant to this day.
Actually ah, with or without him, life still goes on in Bukit Batok. Maybe it’s very developed now, so most amenities are up-to-date. I’ve an uncle who is a RC chairman, and from him it seems the other four MPs in Jurong GRC have no problems taking over Dr Ong’s Meet-the-People Session duties as well as other routine matters. As for a voice in Parliament, we’ve other MPs to speak up. I don’t really know how to make of this. So is my MP important in municipal issues and in Parliament? PM Lee’s refusal to call by-elections seems to suggest that the whole team can still work without one MP.
As I argued before, voting establishes a citizen’s connection to S’pore. By picking our leaders, we’re putting our stakes in this country, creating a bond which cannot be replaced by what ‘sharper distinctions’ between citizens and PRs (like raising school fees for all, but hey, PRs have to pay more than citizens!). Furthermore, the GRC team was elected as one package, and if one or more of them is gone, it seems fair for them to go back to the voters to decide whether they should continue. Even if residents in Jurong GRC voted for this team because of PAP reputation and policies, so the loss of one member does not affect how the PAP would lead the country, it also seems reasonable that by-elections should be held to gauge the support of the govt in its mid-term. Unless the govt afraid…
Malaysia has been suffering from by-elections fatigue, while S’pore has no by-elections, even with the deaths of two MPs. Strange huh, S’pore likes to see itself being superior to Malaysia, but in this area we seem to be lagging. Fortunately in this elections, Jurong GRC is likely to be contested by NSP and perhaps RP. Wow, suddenly got so many choices. But I’m not voting :S