Posts Tagged ‘GE2011’

Singapore’s General Elections 2011 has ended, and all Singaporeans should respect the results of the democratic election process.

Chiam See Tong, stalwart of the Singapore People’s Party, has lost his place in Parliament after 27 years of service to the country. His wife, who was given the task of defending the seat of Potong Pasir that Chiam has held for the past 27 years, lost by merely 114 votes. Chiam’s upset supporters tried to organize a petition, which ultimately landed them into trouble with Singapore’s highly restrictive illegal assembly laws.

The People’s Action Party has lost the group representative constituency of Aljunied, losing Singapore’s foreign minister George Yeo, a much beloved politician in Singapore, as a result. The subject of much social media heckling, Tin Pei Ling, who has been criticised as immature, incapable and riding on the coattails of Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in Marine Parade GRC, has been elected into Parliament. Many has called for Tin’s resignation on Facebook and for Yeo to replace Tin instead.

Such actions are highly regrettable outcomes of a free, fair and democratic process. The nature of a democratic process is such that when a person loses by even one vote, that person has lost. When a person has been elected, he or she has lawfully become a representative of the people who chose to elect this person, no matter how revolting this person might be to others.

Emotions run high during elections, but Singaporeans should respect the democratic process and accept the results of the elections with grace.


Too little, too late

Posted: May 6, 2011 in Politics
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Singapore’s general elections this year is remarkable, for it’s the first time in decades that most Singaporeans can exercise their basic right of being in a democracy: the right to vote.

In past elections, many of the seats up for election have been uncontested, resulting in walkovers by the incumbent People’s Action Party, who has never been voted out of power since independence. This year, with the exception of residents in the Tanjong Pagar Group Representative Constituency, the rest of Singapore will vote and exercise their democratic rights as citizens, many for the very first time.

The past nine days of campaigning has revealed discontent, frustration or even anger at the ruling PAP. The PAP has appeared to be caught off-guard by the groundswell of negative sentiments and only attempted to defuse these feelings late in their campaign.

How did the PAP, with its much vaunted grassroots network under the People’s Association, fail to read ground sentiment? The main reason is that demographics and habits of the electorate has started to change, but the tools that the PAP use to gauge ground sentiment has not.

Social media is increasingly becoming the preferred way for Singaporeans to communicate and share information. Social ties are now fostered not just at block parties or grassroots events, which might have appealed to Singaporeans in the past, but younger Singaporeans are not biting. The PAP has not done a good job feeling the ground sentiment online. Perhaps the PAP thought that online sentiment had little impact in the last general elections, so it did not really pay attention to social media until it was too late.

Social media is a completely different animal from other forms of online media. Facebook, in particular, is not made up of anonymous members. There is a real face, a real identity to an individual Facebook profile for the most part, and this means that opinions on Facebook can no longer be brushed aside as anonymous attacks or propaganda. The opinions posted on Facebook are just about as valid as an opinion said face to face.

The overwhelmingly unhappy sentiments about the PAP circulating on social media are not trivial. They are real sentiments by real people, and the PAP appeared to have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear until Lee Hsien Loong’s apology at a lunchtime rally in the city centre.

Is it too little, too late? Will Singaporeans believe that the PAP, which has brushed aside the cries of many Singaporeans for the past five years, will change its ways? Why did the PAP wait until the elections to apologise? Can the PAP be trusted again? If the PAP cannot be trusted, then who else can be trusted?

Singapore will find out tomorrow.

Just when this blog published a piece on how hard it was to get the prime minister to say sorry, the People’s Action Party team in Aljunied Group Representative Contituency wrote a Facebook note which ought to have been an apology but instead turned out to be a denial.

The note titled “Response to Online Slander that Aljunied PAP team is not compassionate” is republished below:

We wish to clarify on the slander that has been viralling online, particularly on the accusation that we had pressed charges on a helpless, mentally handicapped resident who came to MPS (Meet the People Session) in Serangoon North and slammed a chair on the door.

We were wrongly accused that not only that we had not been compassionate, also that we had pressed charges against the poor boy. We didn’t press charges. The mother and son have been coming to MPS regularly and we had been helping them to get financial aids. We had continued to help after the incident and we will continue doing so.

We would like to urge residents and grassroots leaders to look out for those who require assistance but are hesitating to come forward to ask for help.

Facebook users have been quick to provide evidence that the PAP team in Aljunied GRC did indeed make a police report against the “helpless, mentally handicapped resident” mentioned in the note, posting a link to a news story published by The New Paper in May 2009.

According to the news story, the teen who slammed a chair on a door during a MPS wrote a note to apologise but the apology was not accepted. One of the PAP members of parliament in Aljunied GRC, Lim Hwee Hua, was quoted as saying, “I made it very clear to (the mother of the teen) that this is unacceptable behaviour. It is not justifiable in any circumstance. There’s no excuse to be violent.”

If the news report was untrue, why did the PAP Aljunied GRC team not sue The New Paper? The news story clearly showed that the Aljunied GRC team made a police report and did not appear to make any effort to have the police drop the charge after the teen, who was reported to have low IQ, apologised. Lim’s statement to The New Paper appeared to suggest that the police report was justified.

The PAP team in Aljunied GRC is already facing an uphill battle, and instead of apologising for their poor handling of the case, the team is denying its actions, handing valuable political ammunition to the Workers’ Party. One can imagine the kinds of political points the Workers’ Party will score if the party makes a show of seeking out this resident and promising to redress his grievance.

The PAP team in Aljunied should take a leaf from the book of their secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong and say sorry before it is too late.

It took the People’s Action Party seven days after Nomination Day before it finally acknowledged that it has done poorly in some areas in the years since the PAP won the last general elections.

PAP’s secretary-general and Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong apologised for his party’s missteps during a lunchtime rally on May 4, an apology that should have been said much earlier.

Prior to his apology, other leaders in the PAP had been insisting that the PAP had done a wonderful job governing Singapore in the face of an electorate that is increasingly frustrated with housing, transport, costs of living and immigration policy. The PAP appeared to be up in the clouds, inside a world of their own, and finally, Lee brought his party back down to earth again.

While Lee’s acknowledgement that the PAP had made some serious missteps is certainly much welcomed, the question for voters is, why did it take so long? Why did the leader of the PAP not rein in his party members and allowed them to inflame an already frustrated electorate for a week, giving the other political parties free political ammunition to fire at the PAP? The PAP could have easily taken the wind out of the sail of the other political parties with an apology much earlier.

Lee’s apology coming after one week of political campaigning and less than four days to polling hinted at a strong possibility that the PAP is indirectly acknowledging it might have grossly misread the sentiment on the ground. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong alluded to this point, saying that he is unable to tell how young voters feel about the PAP, and the number of these Gen-Y young voters are significant.

There is no doubt that the other political parties will use Lee’s apology to score political points. Seven days of intensive attacks by the other political parties produced a result that five years of PAP rule since 2006 could not: an acknowledgement of some failure on the part of the PAP to listen to Singaporeans. If seven days of political hustings can wake up the PAP slightly to give an apology, the other political parties may say, imagine what can be done if these parties are voted into parliament for five years? If Singaporeans were to soften their hearts and give the PAP overwhelming support again, the PAP might drift off into slumber again.

The appeal to the electorate for a wake-up call to be given to the PAP has already been issued by Sylvia Lim of the Workers’ Party, who pointed to the 1991 general elections as evidence of how voting other political parties into parliament can improve the lives of Singaporeans.

Considering how Singaporeans have been chided by a prominent PAP leader and told to “repent” if they do not choose the PAP, this apology from the PAP’s secretary-general is certainly surprising, and it must be have been hard to say sorry and to ask for a second chance. Whether the apology cuts any ice with the electorate depends on the voter’s answer to one question:

Can I trust the party who created the problems in the first place to solve the problem and not create worse problems for the next five years?

Auntie power

Posted: May 2, 2011 in People
Tags: , , ,

In this elections, Gen-Y voters may be playing a more significant role than in 2006, but the bulk of the votes still lies in the hands of the Gen-X group, and any candidate wishing to win any seat must be able to seal signifcant support of the Gen-X group.

The People’s Action Party appeared to be directing significant attention to the Gen-X group, both positively and negatively, in their election campaigns. On one hand, they remind these Gen-X voters about high flat values and that the government will always share the fruits of economic prosperity through cash handouts every now and then. On the other hand, the PAP also wields a big stick to strike fear into the hearts of Gen X voters by warning of dire consequences should the PAP be voted out.

The PAP has a huge advantage with significant numbers of Gen-X voters using this strategy, especially with the lesser educated homemakers or the so-called “aunties” in Singapore lingo. These “aunties” are not small in numbers, and it is doubtful that these “aunties” are interested in themes such as a first world parliament.

Instead, these aunties are perhaps more concerned with whether the fish or vegetable prices at the wet markets are going up or down, or whether their favourite fried carrot cake or daily cup of morning coffee at the kopitiam stalls downstairs have increased prices. Or they might be worried about whether the world they know, the world in which there’s only the PAP, will collapse should the PAP be voted out.

Political parties should start thinking about what makes these “aunties”  tick and how to get their votes. The PAP has less to worry about because these “aunties” grew up with the PAP and it is probable that in the absence of a good reason, the default choice is likely the PAP.

The non-PAP parties should not underestimate the power of the “aunties”.

With all the fear mongering about falling property prices in Aljunied that the People’s Action Party has been engaging in recently, someone needs to set the record straight, and two very credible netizens, Bernard Leong and Gilbert Koh, who is better known as Mr Wang, have both written very insightful articles about why Aljunied residents need not fear any fall in their property prices.

Leong used data supplied from the Housing Development Board’s website in his analysis. According to Leong’s article, the median resale value of four and five room HDB flats in Workers’ Party controlled Hougang Single Member Constituency for the past year was not much different from the flats a couple of streets away in Aljunied Group Representative Constituency.

Koh did not use numbers but instead analysed the factors that affect the prices of properties in Singapore, and based on his analysis, there is no rational reason to believe will be a fall in property prices in Aljunied GRC if the Workers’ Party is voted in.

This blog has also commented on the possibility of a drop in the property prices should Aljunied GRC be won by the Workers’ Party and concluded that the odds of such a scenario happening is very unlikely based on the track record of Hougang SMC, which Leong has further substantiated with numbers from HDB’s website.

In the heat of elections, political parties naturally seek any possible advantage over their opponents. Fear mongering and misinformation are part and parcel of political tactics to gain an advantage, but these tactics do not benefit voters, for they impede voters’ ability to make informed choices. It is imperative that facts be told so that informed choices can be made without fear and ignorance.

When faced with fear, counter it with facts. When faced with darkness, counter it with light.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has spoken many times in the past few days about the People’s Action Party’s political opponents. Reproduced below are some comments of the more controversial comments Lee was quoted as saying to various news media outlets.

Quoted from Yahoo! News:

“The only way people learn is when they have to pay a price. From time to time we may lose, and the voters pay the price.”

“If Singaporeans are that fickle, they will have to pay a price, the hard way.”

“Just think. Five years, they’re in charge of your property and your lives… If you like to try your luck, well good luck to you. But I guarantee you, you will not do better than the PAP candidates.”

Quoted from Straits Times Online:

“If Aljunied decides to go that way, well Aljunied has five years to live and repent.”

“We accept the verdict of the people, but they must also accept the consequences of their actions. You must expect the PAP to look after PAP constituencies first.”

Quoted from TODAYonline:

“Ask why in Hougang, the property prices are not as high as their neighbours? What do you think will happen to your property values and your own comfort – your drains, mosquitoes – in the five years you have with this celebrity?”

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew handed over the reins of the PAP in 1990. However, as the founding father of the PAP and arguably, post-Malaysia Singapore, his words carry lots of weight and probably are still very much  indicative of the political mindset of the PAP.

Singaporeans should think hard about what Lee said and ask themselves if this is the kind of political party they want to make the rules: one that has no qualms about bullying others into submission to achieve their goals.