Tag Archives: SDP

Opposition flaws in the SMCs

SMCs results

GE 2011 was an exceptionally bumper year for the opposition, as they fielded several strong candidates in as many wards as they could. But while the average vote share for the PAP in GRCs alone is around 60 percent, similar to the national vote share (due to the law of large numbers), the PAP vote share in the SMCs was different, roughly 58 percent. One reason it is lower is that Hougang was won by the WP, and Potong Pasir and Joo Chiat were marginally won by the PAP.

But I believe in this year, it could have been lower. After all, discontent against the PAP is at an all-time high, due to rising cost of living, cost of housing and a liberal immigrant policy. Why did results in SMCs turn out slightly different? Yes, SMCs tend to produce results of greater deviation from the national popular vote share. With so many GRCs won by the PAP in the 50-odd percentage points, if they had been SMCs, a few would have fallen to the opposition. I was puzzled why some SMCs did not follow this trend, especially in the SMC scoring the only 7o percent point (considered a norm in older days).

When I look at the PAP candidates in the top-scoring SMCs, they were indeed high-profile. Hong Kah North was won by Amy Khor, long-time office-holder; Radin Mas was won by Sam Tan, another office-holder; Yuhua was won by Grace Fu, a junior minister; Bukit Panjang by Dr Teo Ho Ping, who is personally popular in the ward; Whampoa by Heng Chee How, a junior minister.

The PAP candidates in the rest of the SMCs were not as high-profile, but that doesn’t mean less capable. Pioneer, won by Cedric Foo, a former junior minister, reflected the national trend (60 percent scored by Cedric Foo). What’s more interesting is that, though the bottom-scoring PAP candidates were less low-profile, all of them had been the incumbent MPs (or for Sitoh, the ‘grassroots advisor’) of their wards for at least 5 years (exclude Charles Chong in Joo Chiat, who is a veteran MP but parachuted into the ward; Desmond Choo in Hougang). And against them, the opposition fielded newcomers, each of them clinching more than 40 percent of the votes.

But against the high-profile PAP candidates in the top-scoring SMCs, the opposition fielded veterans, who lost big. It was a strategic error by the NSP and SPP to put those whom they considered ‘strong’ against the high-profile PAP candidates. Ironically, those who seemed strong had lost consecutive elections (Sin Kek Tong, Yip Yew Weng, Ken Sun, Steve Chia), compared to the WP’s newcomers, who polled more than 40 percent each, as they depended on the party reputation. In Yuhua and Bukit Panjang, it seems the SDP also committed a flaw in parachuting in Teo Soh Lung and Alec Tok respectively. Teo was a former ISA detainee…and that’s all everyone in Yuhua probably knows. For Tok, his switch to the SDP from the Reform Party, and his campaign in Bukit Panjang, seems a little too late and insincere to win the ward from the genuinely popular Dr Teo.

Hence it boils down to individuality of candidates, age and party brand in the SMCs. If younger and new opposition candidates (perhaps Nicole Seah?) had stood against the high-profile PAP candidates in the SMCs, they might have done better, so following the national trend. In any case, the next elections might not present similar opportunities of discontent which the opposition could tap on in GE 2011. And of course, SMCs could appear and disappear, like magic.


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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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A Brief History of Elections III: SDP

Everyone is interested and excited about how the opposition would fare in the next elections. At least coming from someone who can’t vote and is an observer. It is extremely difficult to predict how people vote, because last-minute issues can pop up and turn the tide of the supposed winner. But at the same time, assuming there’s no such Black Swan event, there is a small amount of certainty we can predict how people cast their votes, by speculating on their motivations, the context – and a little bit of history.

Since there’s no straw poll to see which party has the most amount of goodwill or support, we’ve to look at past performances to peer into the future. I’ll do these in a few ways: 1) percentage of popular votes, 2) percentage of total parliamentary seats contested, 3) percentage of votes in contested wards. I’ll elaborate later. Have a look at the first graph of this post:

Share of popular votes in %. Source: Singapore Elections

* The results of SDA in 1997 are from SPP, the party which Chiam See Tong founded after leaving SDP. The results of NSP are the same as SDA in 2001 and 2006 because NSP was a major component party in SDA.

As my post suggests, I’ll be looking at the SDP (the yellow bar). Between 1988 and 1997, they were ranked third in terms of popular vote share, or the second best-performing opposition party. In 2001, they emerged second in popular vote share, but this is due to the WP’s exceptionally poor performance. In the last elections, they were ranked bottom.

Why does popular vote share matter? Seeing how the parties score is an indicator of their support across the country (hmm, at least in contested wards). By ranking the PAP and the major opposition parties, a pattern can emerge that suggests which party S’poreans prefer, elections after elections. As you can see, the popular vote share of the SDP has been shrinking over the past 5 elections. This graph is actually flawed, as no opposition party has put up candidates in all wards. If all the opposition parties and the PAP fight in every ward i.e. each ward having a 4-way fight, the popular vote share graph would be more accurate in terms of gauging voter support.

But this is still useful – see which party is most consistent. And from the graph, SDP has been consistent in the wrong sense, that its popular vote share is on a gradual decline. The next elections seem to be bust or boom for them – either they continue their decline (below 8 percent), or they jump to the 10-odd percentage points of the popular vote share. It took the NSP (first elections 1988) four elections to increase their popular vote share beyond 10 percent, and even then, as one of the two major component parties of the SDA. The SDP, with a longer history, should have it easier to reverse their decline.

Absolute no and % of seats contested. Source: Singapore Elections

This graph shows the absolute number and percentage of seats which SDP has contested in the past elections. Why is this important? Well, obviously the opposition party’s goal is to form the next govt, and expanding their presence in Parliament is the first step to projecting their influence. Ideally, a party’s number and percentage of seats contested should increase, suggesting it is increasingly confident of challenging the ruling party. And the number of seats contested shows how many candidates it can find, which means if the party is able to retain its core members or find new ones.

For the SDP, their absolute number and percentage of seats contested has been on a descending trend. Ironically, the sharp drop in seats contested in 1991 coincided with the election of 3 candidates. As the first graph on popular vote share corroborates, the SDP is on a decline; decreasing support from voters, and smaller percentage of total seats contested.

% of votes in contested wards vs. popular vote share. Source: Singapore Elections

The red line here represents the percentage of votes in SDP-contested wards. That means, if we combine all the wards which SDP contested to form one entity, we can calculate the percentage which SDP scored only in its contested wards – unlike the first graph, where popular vote means including votes from wards which SDP did not contest.

Hence we are seeing a micro picture of PAP vs SDP (there might be 3-cornered fights, but the results of the third party should be minute). The SDP’s percentage of votes peaked in 1991, where it won a handsome 3 seats, but from then on, it has been on a decline too. In other words, it is doing quite badly against the PAP, if the wards which it contested represents S’pore, and there were only two parties, the PAP vs. SDP. As I mentioned, it seems to be going bust.

Now, for something interesting:

% of seats contested vs. % of votes in contested wards. Source: Singapore Elections

In 1991, where the percentage of seats which SDP contested fell, and in absolute number, only 9, the percentage of votes it received in contested wards was 48.6 percent. When it fielded a slightly larger number of candidates, its percentage of votes fell instead. This can be attributed to both SDP weaknesses and PAP strength. But one lesson from this statistic is that a party can still do well in its contested wards, even if it fields a small number of candidates.


If I use the above graphs to predict the SDP’s performance, they would probably do very badly. However, they are active in the new media, and recently presented their Shadow Budget. And from a glance at their website, they seem to be strong and confident. Whether voters will give them a chance to reverse their decline is another question, to be answered soon.

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