That the victory of Workers’ Party in Aljunied has overshadowed other electoral contests is inevitable; the stakes were high there. Before Polling Day, I predicted that the SDA would be obliterated at the polls, and in the 3-cornered fight at Punggol East, the SDA secretary-general himself lost his electoral deposit. The PAP scored 60.14 percent in the popular vote share, a 6-point drop from the previous elections. But I’d think this is a consistent trend:
As you can see from the diagram, with the exception of the exceptional year 2001, the PAP popular vote share has been hovering in the lower 60 percentage points. I believe if not for the quality of opposition candidates in some SMCs, the PAP popular vote share would have fallen to between 55 and 60 percentage points, GE 2011 being fiercely contested. But the trend is this: the PAP vote share has been in the 60s since 1988 (except 2001), and it might continue to decline.
For the Workers’ Party, they have never breached beyond 20 percent popular vote share from 1988, but this might be because they did not field candidates in all wards. However, their share of the popular votes has been fairly consistent (again, discount 2001). Ironically, while their popular vote share has dipped from 2006, they secured a record number of 6 seats. This can be attributed to other parties competing heavily against the PAP as well, especially the NSP, which took a nearly equal amount of 12 percent in the popular share. It is clear, over the past 20 years, the WP has consistently remained the No.2 choice of voters.
The PAP has been inflicted a psychological blow, in losing Aljunied GRC. The law of large numbers, however, has held up well in other GRCs, so Aljunied might be an exception. But with the loss of 3 ministers, and the lowest popular vote share since independence, the PAP would do a very deep and sombre self-reflection.
PAP has lost the ability to dictate the agenda. The PAP has originally campaigned on leadership renewal, 4G leadership etc, but it was obvious during the campaigning period, other issues such as cost of living, liberal immigrant policy, and housing took the stage. The 4G leadership was overshadowed by the WP’s hammering of a “First World Parliament” – such that PAP leaders had to respond to them, rather than pound on their own 4G message.
Watershed elections? Yes, in the sense that the WP made a breakthrough. No, that the PAP still dominates overwhelmingly. But as I mentioned in point 3, the PAP can’t return to its heydays of dictating the agenda – it can respond, and respond vigorously it did. MM Lee might be wishing for the good old days of the 1970s and 1980s and perhaps 1990s (when upgrading of HDB flats became a key issue/threat, depends on how you see it)…but Singapore, Singaporeans, the PAP and opposition parties have changed and will change. For good or ill, it is too early to tell.