Tag Archives: battleground

If George Yeo goes, it’s the PAP’s fault

The PAP invested heavily in GRCs, believing that a GRC is their fixed deposit. But they failed to anticipate that Low and Chiam would forsake their strongholds of Hougang and Potong Pasir respectively to contest in GRCs. Now, with Low leading his A Team to contest Aljunied, there is a huge possibility the GRC might be the first to fall into opposition hands. And if it happens, Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo will lose his seat as well as his portfolio, which will really be a loss for Singapore, as unlike some ministers, he has performed well, is intellectual yet humble and likable.

Look at what SM Goh said:

Speaking at a rally in Marine Parade GRC, Mr Goh in particular spoke of the potential impact should Mr Yeo lose his seat.

Mr Goh said Mr Yeo has been handling delicate negotiations with Malaysia and Indonesia on border issues.

Mr Goh also said Singapore has what he described as a “beautiful arrangement” – with an Indian as President, a Chinese as Prime Minister and a Malay, Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, as potential Speaker of Parliament.

Mr Goh said: “On the basis of merit we ended up with this, a politically balanced, beautiful picture.

“You knock out George Yeo and Zainul Abidin. Well, you’ll have to look for another Speaker on the basis of merit. Well, that person may not be Zainul Abidin once he’s out, or another Malay MP.

In the first place, it is the PAP which created the GRC system, expanded it from a 3-member-ward to a 5- or 6-member-ward, drastically reduced the number of single-member-wards, and appointed cabinet ministers to helm each GRC. For the past two decades they have benefited from the GRC system in several ways: 1) absorbing opposition-leaning wards into GRCs, 2) creating physical barriers for opposition parties to contest GRCs, 3) and parachuting first-time candidates so that they will win by walkovers or with the help of their experienced teammates.

All these have diluted the voices of opposition supporters, as well as taking away a fundamental right of citizens – that of voting. Voting is not banned, but the co-relation between the size and number of GRCs and the number of walkover constituencies results in a trend that many S’poreans are unable to vote in every elections. Maybe these S’poreans would have voted the PAP anyway, but without elections, there IS no way to know how S’poreans would vote. Maybe the opposition parties should take the blame for being unable to muster the resources, but at the same time, an unfair system is hurting them even more.

If Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo were to contest in a single-member ward, he could have won easily. So could Zainul Abidin. But the PAP chose to create the GRC system, chose to put two heavyweights in one GRC, and did not anticipate that a veteran opposition MP would risk his political career to make an all-out bid for a GRC. To Low Thia Kiang’s shrewdness, he has made the contest in Aljunied a referendum on the type of political system which S’poreans desire – a monolithic PAP in Parliament, or a dominant PAP with about 33 percent Opposition MPs? The feeble response of the PAP team is to turn the contest into one involving municipal issues, a sign that they understand Low’s message is somewhat reasonable, and will attract some swing voters.

Surprisingly, the PAP has not trotted out the guaranteed number of 9 NCMPs seats. One reason is that Low is popular, and there are many who want to see him represent them as an elected MP, rather than a NCMP (who represents no one and is second-class). But I think S’poreans will not vote opposition just because of the guaranteed NCMPs; to them, it is very simple, a NCMP is still a loser, not a winner, in this first-past-the-post electoral system.

Personally, I’d like George Yeo to remain as Foreign Affairs minister, but like Aljunied residents, I think the Workers’ Party’s idea of a First World Parliament is beneficial for S’pore’s future. Who is at fault for creating this ’emotional dilemma’?

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GE 2011: Battleground GRCs & SMCs!

In a previous post, I mentioned what are the criteria for being battleground GRCs or SMCs:

  1. Good chance of falling into opposition hands
  2. Historic or unprecedented
  3. Candidates or issues are controversial or attention-grabbing
  4. Heightened sense of anticipation to the campaigning period and Polling Day

Nomination Day is over, and this is the updated list:

Battleground GRCs

Sizzling Hot:

  1. Aljunied GRC – it nearly fell into opposition hands in GE 2006, and the WP only needs a 8-point swing of votes to its side to capture the GRC. Furthermore, a sitting Opposition MP, Low Thia Kiang, is leading the GRC team with their ‘star catch’ Chen Show Mao. The whole Singapore awaits the results from this GRC.
  2. Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC – given that Chiam See Tong has made known his intention to contest here much earlier, there is excitement over whether he can capture the GRC. Furthermore, his team has two former government scholars, cementing his team’s credibility. More importantly, Bishan Toa-Payoh has faced walkovers since 1997, and we do not know if voters would take to the veteran Chiam or stick to the PAP team. This huge known unknown makes the contest challenging for both the PAP and SPP.

Hot:

  1. East Coast GRC – the WP garnered 36 percent of votes here in GE 2006, the second-best performing opposition GRC. The PAP’s decision to insert two ministers and no newbies here means they treat the contest very seriously.
  2. Holland-Bukit Timah GRC – the SDP has fielded a very strong slate against a twice-walkover team. S’poreans caught a glimpse of the verbal sparring between the SDP and PAP, and can expect more as campaigning period begins.
  3. Tampines GRC – the NSP and WP have been whacking Mah Bow Tan. What would be voters’ reaction?

Warm:

  1. Chua Chu Kang GRC – again, a NSP team which has two former government scholars is competing against the PAP.
  2. Marine Parade GRC – attention seems to be on 3 candidates only, SM Goh, Tin Pei Ling and Nicole Seah
  3. Nee Soon GRC – the previous Nee Soon SMCs (east, west, central, north, south) used to swing to opposition in the 1990s. Whether the support continues is unknown.
  4. West Coast GRC – KJ from the Reform Party is making his maiden electoral bid. Success or performance here will make or break the future of his party.

Mild:

  1. Ang Mo Kio GRC
  2. Jurong GRC
  3. Moulmein-Kallang GRC
  4. Pasir-Ris Punngol GRC
  5. Sembawang GRC

Battleground SMCs

Sizzling Hot:

  1. Potong Pasir
  2. Hougang

The reasons are similar for both wards. The sitting opposition MPs are leading GRC teams, and everyone will be looking to see which way both go.

Hot:

  1. Punggol East – well, because it’s a 3-cornered fight

As of now, the rest of the SMCs don’t really look exciting. Attention is focussed on the GRCs, and if the opposition will make a breakthrough. The PAP might have thought up of the GRC system to its benefit, but they forgot if the opposition wins one GRC, even if marginally, they immediately net 5 or 4 seats. Oh well.

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Return of the SPP

My impression of Chiam See Tong’s SPP was that of a party lacking in visions and ideas, as seen from the TV performance of Lina Chiam on Channel NewsAsia’s Political Forum. I also predicted the SDA’s electoral demise as soon as Chiam’s SPP pulled out; it is clear that Chiam was the only one holding the Alliance together, giving it a sense of unity. For a short while I’d believed the SPP was destined for certain obliteration, as Chiam struggled to form a dream team for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

But what a turn of events! The opposition elder has attracted two former government scholars to contest with him, besides two long-time politicians. And he even asserted his ‘chances are very good’. Though the SPP is contesting 7 seats (5-member Bishan-Toa Payoh, Hong Kah North and Potong Pasir), attention is focussed on the GRC and whether the SPP would make a historic win, with a veteran at the helm of an impressive team of candidates.

If The Straits Times is accurate ($2m foundation pledge! and ‘surge in volunteers‘), the SPP seems to be reviving itself at the last moment. What’s the impact of this on S’porean voters and the General Elections?

Previously I mentioned which would be a battleground GRC or SMC, and Bishan-Toa Payoh was among the first-tier battleground GRCs. Well, it seems apt for its ranking to increase, from just first-tier to Red Alert. Why?

1) The Chiam appeal. His maiden attempt to lead a GRC has not been smooth-sailing, but the final line-up is solid. Furthermore, it seems more volunteers and sympathizers are helping Chiam to win.

2) Bishan Toa-Payoh, since its meshed-up formation in 1997, has never seen a contest. If we go back a little further, Toa Payoh has not seen a contest since 1988. No one knows how the voters there would vote, because there is no history at all. No straw poll has been taken too, so Polling Day for this GRC would be especially exciting.

3) The PAP team in Bishan Toa-Payoh has NOT faced a contest before – with the exception of DPM Wong Kan Seng, but not in recent elections. Are they electable in their own rights? Maybe, maybe not.

As you can see, the outcome is clouded in uncertainty. The voters, the PAP team as well as the opposition, though Chiam’s star power is drawing tremendous attention and effort here.

I’d defined a ‘battleground’ with 3 criteria: 1) unprecedented, 2) good chance of opposition winning, 3) controversial or headlines-grabbing. The contest in Bishan Toa-Payoh fulfills 1) and 3) very strongly. I don’t know how S’poreans there would vote, and I bet the PAP or the SPP doesn’t too. It’s a gigantic known unknown, which means the GRC deserves a ‘Red Alert‘ status – a tough fight for both the PAP and SPP.

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Which would be a ‘battleground’?

Though nearly all wards might be contested in this coming elections, the public’s and media’s eyes can only be trained on a select few, because they are known as ‘battleground’ GRCs or SMCs. In the US presidential elections, they have battleground states, where winning the most votes in them is crucial to their overall count in the electoral college. This is because some states are either solidly Democratic or Republican, some are fence-sitters and have a huge influence in deciding the outcome of the elections.

In S’pore, due to our circumstances here, by default all electoral wards would be coloured white. The reason why Potong Pasir and Hougang have been in opposition hands for so long is due to the personalities of their MPs, rather than their parties. But even then, we can speculate (before Nomination Day) which GRC or SMC is likely to be a battleground.

What defines a battleground?

1) Good chance of falling into opposition hands i.e. Aljunied GRC (?),

2) Historic or unprecedented i.e. 3-way fights,

3) The candidates or issues involved in the GRC or SMC are highly controversial that they can swing votes i.e. NSP’s minister-specific strategy, Chiam See Tong contesting in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC

4) Heightened sense of expectations or anticipation, whether real or false i.e. Potong Pasir being contested by Lina Chiam.

A GRC or SMC can fulfill one or all conditions to become a battleground ward. These are probably the battleground GRCs or SMCs:

GRCs:

1) Aljunied (most hotly-contested in GE 2006)

2) Tampines (NSP attacking Mah Bow Tan and housing, if he stays there)

3) Bishan-Toa Payoh (Chiam leaving his stronghold for probably his swansong election, if he loses)

4) Moulmein-Kallang (unprecedented PAP-NSP-WP three-cornered fight)

I’d put these GRCs in the first tier of battleground wards, assuming everything is the same on Nomination Day.

In the second tier, it would probably be:

1) Nee Soon GRC (NS East, Central were previously contested, and South was once nearly lost to the opposition. As of now, seems to be safe for the PAP)

2) East Coast (ironically, the anchor minister Lim Swee Say has NEVER faced an election before. And that minister for transport Raymond Lim was not promoted to be the anchor minister suggests the PAP believes he is a ‘lightweight’ minister, and that he might bear the brunt of the opposition’s attack on transport issues, costing them support. But as of now, it seems East Coast is still pure white)

SMCs:

1) Potong Pasir (would Lina Chiam hold her husband’s stronghold? That is probably the million-dollar-question)

Hmm, I don’t really think other wards are that ‘hot’ – yet. In the second tier, it would be:

1) Pioneer (RP chief KJ on his maiden attempt – and facing a possible 3-way fight)

And it’d be prudent to lump these SMCs together, because they might face 3-way or 4-way fights, yet these wards seem to be safely PAP: Seng Kang West, Punggol East, Radin Mas, Whampoa, Yuhua, Joo Chiat.

It’s not surprising that GRCs are hotter than SMCs, given that the opposition’s target is to seize at least one GRC.

Anyway, everything might change on Nomination Day. So till then…

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