Posts Tagged ‘voting’

Tony Tan has won the presidential election to become Singapore’s seventh president. However, what is more significant is not that he won, but how he well he fared.

Winning by a margin of 0.34 percent, or 7,629 votes out of 2,153,014 votes cast is an extremely poor result for someone who has held several important ministerial positions, the highest being deputy prime minister, under the banner of the People’s Action Party. Tony Tan was the only candidate to be praised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the election’s hustings, which is a clear signal of who the PAP prefers to be the president.

That the PAP’s preferred candidate, with such gilded credentials and close association with the PAP, could only muster a win of such epic proportions is undoubtedly a bad omen for the PAP’s political future.

If the results of this year’s presidential elections are anything to go by, the PAP can expect its die-hard supporter base to hold steady at about 35%, and possibly decline a few percentage points by the next general elections because many of the PAP staunchest supporters are the elderly folks.

The PAP’s political opponents are not faring better than the PAP. The darling of the opponents, Tan Jee Say, raked in 25% of the votes cast, suggesting that the PAP opponents are not strong enough to topple the PAP from its political perch on their own.

The candidate in the middle of the political spectrum, Tan Cheng Bock, pulled in just a whisker shy of 35% of the votes, indicating that more than a third of Singaporeans are moderates or independents. The political middle ground appears to be the critical factor in winning future elections, and it remains to be seen how far the various political parties are willing to pander to the moderates and independents. Tan Cheng Bock has proven that the political middle ground is highly fertile and clearly worth cultivating.

For future elections, the moderates and independents are going to feel like a busty, pretty blonde on Valentine’s Day, with tons of suitors bearing flowers and gifts in exchange for a date. Moderate and independent voters are the true winners of this presidential election, and they are going to have it good in future elections.


Singapore’s upcoming presidential election is keenly contested, with four candidates vying for the position of the head of state of the Republic of Singapore. The presidential elections, hot on the heels of this year’s parliamentary elections, has generated much interest in the role of the president.

The role of Singapore’s president is largely ceremonial, although the president has some powers in terms blocking the drawing of Singapore’s reserves by the executive, as well as the ability to block appointments of key civil service positions by the executive (for a fuller list of the powers of the president, see this Wikipedia entry). While the president is not as powerful as the prime minister, the discretionary powers afforded to the president necessitate a prudent choice by the electorate.

A president who gets along too well with the executive led by the People’s Action Party raises the important question of whether the president will be partial to the executive, while a president who constantly tries to obstruct the executive can hamper the effective making of important decisions. The president Singaporeans need is one who is neither a lap dog nor an obstructionist.

As such, presidential candidate Tony Tan, who has served in many different PAP-led executives and held several ministerial positions for a large part of his life, is not an ideal candidate to be Singapore’s president. While some may argue Tony Tan’s experience in various PAP-led executives throughout the years means that he has a better understanding of how the executive works and thinks, resulting in a more effective presidency, his overly close past ties with the executive raises too many concerns about his ability to be impartial.

The issue of impartiality plagues candidate Tan Jee Say as well. The former senior civil servant turned private investor contested the recently concluded parliamentary elections under the banner of the Singapore Democratic Party, and his fiery anti-PAP speeches still lingers in memory. If candidate Tony Tan has had an overly cosy relationship with the PAP, then Tan Jee Say has the completely opposite problem, which naturally rules him out as a good president.

The two other candidates left are Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Kin Lian, the former being a medical doctor and ex-PAP member of parliament, and the latter, the ex-chief executive of the largest insurance cooperative in Singapore, who was also once a rank and file PAP member. Despite a history of affiliation with the PAP, both Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Kin Lian are not close to the core of the PAP leadership, which is largely comprised of the PAP members in the executive. In addition, both of them have histories of being critical of the PAP when they disagree with their party. Hence, both of them are much less objectionable than Tony Tan.

Between the two, Tan Cheng Bock is the better choice. Both Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Kin Lian have won the hearts of the common folk, and many Singaporeans would certainly prefer a “People’s President”. Tan Cheng Bock had a long career of providing medical services to the less well-off, while Tan Kin Lian has been at the forefront of championing the rights of small investors in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The difference between the two is, however, not in their ability to be independent and impartial.

The head of the state of the Republic of Singapore, other than being independent and impartial, is also the representative of the republic to the world. The president has to be some who can carry himself well on the international stage and be the representative of Singapore whom Singaporeans can be proud of.

Tan Cheng Bock is the clear winner on this count. He should be the next president of Singapore.

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
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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”.