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CNA Political Forum thoughts

Yesterday night, Channel NewsAsia aired a Political Forum, which the PAP, SDA, SPP and WP attended. I’m not sure why the NSP and RP were not invited to the English version. Perhaps too many parties and no time.

Anyway, this is a summary of the televised forum, and I agree with it.

The representative from the SDA, Assistant S-G Mohd Nazem Suki, was difficult to listen. He couldn’t string up a complete sentence, and looked nervous throughout the show. Maybe he wasn’t used to such a context. But nervousness and inexperience are excusable; the points which he squeaked hardly make sense. He talked about mixing “commercial” and “public” issues, and while I know where he is getting to, I still don’t have a clear picture of where the SDA stands. Oh, and I predicted the SDA’s obliteration at the polls.

For SPP’s Lina Chiam, it is obvious she did not have a complete grasp of policy issues etc. Similar to the SDA, SPP has not much to offer. Lina Chiam is contesting in Potong Pasir, and this is the interesting part: how are the residents there voting? Based on personalities, or the party’s platform? It seems Potong Pasir is an opposition ward only because of Chiam See Tong’s personal popularity. Their party, at least from yesterday’s forum, is severely short of details what they would offer in Parliament.

I think there is a huge chance Potong Pasir might revert to PAP control. Once Chiam See Tong leaves, residents might decide to give THEMSELVES a chance to enjoy the upgrading etc, which a PAP MP can perhaps better provide. And once Potong Pasir votes white, it is likely to be wiped off the electoral map. Sad huh. Would Lina Chiam win on her own? Maybe, maybe not, that’s why Potong Pasir is going to be a battlefield SMC.

The best performers from the opposition side are SDP’s Dr Vincent Wijeysingha and WP’s Gerald Giam. The former is sharp and articulate. His arguments are good, but he can’t resist scoring political points like bringing up ministerial pay and Mas Selemat’s escape. Well, expected of politics. The PAP side did not really whack the opposition (and they had MANY opportunities), and Finance Minister Tharman was gentlemanly in his manners. He even lent support to the opposition, by saying that more of them is good in Parliament. This is the PAP at its finest.

Gerald Giam was consistent – that opposition MPs (specifically only the WP’s, I guess) are in Parliament as an insurance for Singapore. This is the basic message of the WP – them as an insurance. And from their position as the strongest opposition party, this message might be hammered on the swing voters.

However, I disagree with the New Nation’s article that the SDP’s electoral performance might improve. One is that they seem to be contesting Yuhua, Bukit Panjang and Holland-Bukit Timah – a puny total of 6 seats, compared to 20 candidates as declared by WP.  Of course the SDP might win one seat or the entire GRC, or end up as one of the top losers, but I’m doubtful if voters will take to them in the first place. Hmm.

I’m disappointed NSP wasn’t on the show, because I think they might perform well in the elections. Oh well, watch the Mandarin version tonight.

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Predictions for the SDA

The Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) currently has two component parties after Chiam See Tong’s Singapore’s People Party (SPP) pulled out. The remaining two parties are PKMS (Singapore Malay National Organisation) and Singapore Justice Party. Given that both are ‘lightweight’ parties, it is surprising to see the presentation of SDA’s candidates for the coming elections.

Three out of the four candidates are from the PKMS, and two of them are fresh faces, suggesting that PKMS has continued its self-renewal processes, despite their bloody brawl in the streets a few years ago. It seems they have recovered from that unfortunate clash, and they recently celebrated their ‘Golden Jubilee‘. On the surface it looks good for them. But whether the candidates are sufficiently convincing to win is another question. Furthermore, they are poised to take part in 3-way or 4-way fights with other parties.

The last time which PKMS took part in elections by itself was 20 years ago, in the 1991 general elections. They fielded 4 candidates, none was elected, and polled 16.9 percent of the votes in the wards which they contested. In 2001, they joined the SDA, and for that year’s elections, they provided a single candidate – to fill the Malay spot in one of the GRCs. Ditto for 2006.

Hence it’s obvious as a party, PKMS lacks appeal, and has to ride on the coattails of the major component parties of SDA, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and SPP. I’m not sure if being an all-Malay party contributes to its previous lackluster performance, but just as a Chinese candidate can claim to represent the Malays and Indians, so can a Malay candidate represent all S’poreans. So they are suffering from a basic and common problem: of persuading the public that opposition candidates can represent them effectively as well.

For the SJP, it is so little known that it can be easily discarded. Their last elections were in 1992, and they lost their electoral deposits. Oh, its secretary-general is Desmond Lim, also secretary-general of the SDA. Nothing else.

According to the news report, the SDA will contest in the SMCs of Radin Mas, Seng Kang West, Punggol East; and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

As I mentioned in a previous post, in 3- or 4-way fights, past elections have distilled a few simple guiding points:

1) One party (or Independent candidate) will lose its electoral deposits

2) The party which does is the younger and smaller one

PKMS and SJP are not very young like the Reform Party (RP), but they are probably smaller than the big boys e.g. WP, NSP. In Seng Kang West and Punggol East, where the WP is also contesting, I think the SDA will poll less than 12.5 percent of the votes. Just based on gut feeling, after seeing the statistics. In Radin Mas, where a 4-way fight might take place among the PAP, RP, NSP and SDA, it is a gory race-to-the-bottom, to see which party polls the worst. Personally I think either RP or SDA will be the last.

For Pasir-Ris Punggol, where the SDA will face a straight fight against the PAP, the results are less predictable. Firstly, without Chiam lending his leadership to the SDA, voters might desert them, since some would have voted for them because of Chiam. However, the SDA claims to be working the ground hard since the last elections. A win or strong rise in their percentage of votes will mean the SDA stands a chance of surviving with just two component parties. A large drop to 20-odd percentage points, however, will be their death knell.

That’s my speculation for now. Everything might change on Nomination Day and during the campaigning period and finally, on Polling Day itself.

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