Singapore Politics - Insights from the Inside

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 

What Next?

I guess judging by the internet traffic, after the GE, it is always a lull period for bloggers and their website. I've been thinking of several topics to write on and hope that I can get some feedback on it. Here are some choices:

1) The "Super-Seven" Ministers
After the 2001 GE, seven new candidates have been thrown into office position. They are, Tharman Shanmuguratnam, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Raymond Lim, Khaw Boon Wan, Dr Ng Eng Hen and Cedric Foo. With the exception of Cedric Foo, the rest of them are established Ministers. This article will be like a report card, looking into ups and downs of the six Ministers and the major policies that they have introduced.

2) The Man Who Almost Became Prime Minister - Lim Chin Siong
In the history books, he was always labelled as a Communist who seeks violence by riots. However, history is written and often distorted by those who "won" and not those who made them. Lim Chin Siong was once introduced by Lee Kuan Yew to David Marshall as the "Future Prime Minister". But we all know who became the PM eventually. He was said to be charismatic Chinese leader who can mobilize a crowd by his words. The turning point came when he defected from the PAP and formed his own party, Barisan Sosialis. The PAP was just an empty shell without him and his union support. But, later during the merger with Malaya, he was cruelly jailed for years under ISA that left him in depression. This article looks at the history of the man who almost became Prime Minister, his life, his works and his credits.

3) Opposition II - Singapore Democratic Party
Earlier I wrote on the Worker's Party and their history. This article will feature SDP and their ups and downs. The infamous party split and ousting of Chiam See Tong, the founder of the SDP, and the transition to Dr Chee Soon Juan.

4) About Thrasymachus - Boring!
A shameless attempt at writing on the mystery author of this blog aka me! Writing about him can be so boring that he may never finish writing about himself due to the sleep-inducing content.

Note: Earlier, I have posted the wrong photo of Francis Seow and have mistakened Dr Francis Seow-Cheon for the former-WP Francis Seow. My deepest apologies to Dr Francis Seow-Cheon and family. The photo has been removed with immediate effect.

Sunday, May 21, 2006 

General Election: I Swear This is the Last…

Yes, GE has long passed and everyone is filled to the brim with election news, information, gossips and stories in the past weeks. I swear this is the last article on it before I move on to something constructive (or destructive). After GE, it usually represents at least two years of the introduction of unpopular policies such as transport fare hikes, pay cuts and GSTs. As the laymen always say, the “Progressive Package is like a chicken drumstick”. “Enjoy the drumstick while you can before they take back the whole chicken.” The PAP also has an unusual ability to time the GE at the peak of the economy, just before the downturn. But economics aside, I’ll just add in some food for thoughts on the passing days, coming days and coming months.

Cabinet Reshuffling
Who is going where? Historically, the first Cabinet Reshuffling doesn’t have many surprises. This year will be no exceptions. I expect PM Lee to announce the new Cabinet either this coming week or early next week, with the swearing-in ceremony at the end of the month. But don’t bet your houses on my predictions.

In the coming Cabinet Reshuffling, there will be three interesting pointers to look out for. First, will there be any Ministers or who will be retiring? Dr Tony Tan has already stepped down before the elections, but I expect maybe one more Minister to step down. My guess is either Lim Boon Heng or Lee Boon Yang. After Lim Boon Heng transferred his (secretary-general) NTUC portfolio to Lim Swee Say, he is practically the Minister of nothing. In addition, he scored some spectacular "own-goals" by setting an 80% winning target for PM Lee's Ang Mo Kio GRC prior to the polling. However, he is the Chairman of the PAP Central Executive Committee (voted in by the Party cadres), which is a powerful position itself. Interestingly, Lim Boon Heng has never headed a Ministry in this entire political career and seemed to lost favour with the leadership. Dr Lee Boon Yang will be 60 years old next year. To many other countries, he is still relative young as a Minister, but not so in Singapore (with the exception of MM LKY). He has been always dubbed as the GCK men, together with Lim Boon Heng. During the Goh Chok Tong years (as the PM), Lee Boon Yang was put in-charge of several important Ministries such as Labour (now renamed as Ministry of Manpower) and Defence. Under LHL, both seemed to be less favoured. Thus, one of these two Ministers is likely to retire in the coming Cabinet reshuffle.

Secondly, who are the new Ministers of State and to which Ministry? PM Lee highlighted four names, Lee Yi Shyan, RADM Lui Teck Yew, Masagos Zulkifli and Grace Fu. Intuitively, RADM Lui will be the Senior Minister of State for Defence, Grace Fu to be the Minister of State for Transport, Lee Yi Shyan to be Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Masogos to be the Parliamentary Secretary. In addition, we might see some backbenchers to promote like Maliki Osman. Of course, nothing is certain.

Lastly, who will be promoted or is there any change in portfolios? For the first Cabinet reshuffling, we are unlikely to see major changes in Ministers and portfolios. Most of the Ministers will remain in their portfolio with the exception of the retiring Minister(s). Maybe one or two Senior Ministers of State might be promoted to Acting Ministers. Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for MICA and MOH, is the last of the "Super Seven" (minus Cedric Foo) to be promoted. He has done a fairly good job in Ministry of Health and MICA (I'll be writing and explaining in an article on him as well as the rest of the Super Seven in the coming weeks) and might get a chance for promotion. The other Senior Minister of State is Prof Ho Peng Kee. For the recent GE, he was contesting in Nee Soon East SMC. He is the most senior member of Cabinet contesting in a single member constituency. Traditionally, if the leaders send a Minister of State or Senior Minister of State for a single ward, it might represent several things. There is always a certain level of risk in losing when contesting in single wards. Thus, if the candidate is going to be an important member of the new Cabinet, the leaders might not want to risk him in a SMC for GE. Secondly, the grassroots workload in single constituencies is usually heavier than those in the GRCs. In doubling the workload with the appointment of a full Minister in Cabinet and taking care of the SMC, it might be too much to concentrate for one person. Thus, comparing background of Prof Ho Peng Kee and Dr Balaji, it seemed like Dr Balaji stands a higher chance of promoting to an Acting Minister. But if the retiring Minister is Jayakumar, Ho Peng Kee might be promoted to take over his Law portfolio. We will have to wait around a week to know the answers. In any case, the second Cabinet reshuffle, a year or two later, will likely to see more GCK men, such as Lee Boon Yang, Lim Boon Heng and Yeo Cheow Tong, stepping down.

Secrecy of Votes
11 May 2006, Lynn Lee from the Straits Times wrote an interesting article on “How your vote is kept secret”. The article is quite comprehensive and accurate, but maybe just to add to her good works, I’ll add in my some of my experiences as an independent counting agent.

On the casting of votes, she wrote, “Constituencies are carved up into several polling districts. There is one polling station per district. Each station handles around 2,000 to 4,000 voters. Each voter is assigned to a specific polling lane with a ballot box at the end of it. In each lane, a voter's name and registration number are called out as he receives the ballot slip. This allows the polling agents sent there by the contesting parties to confirm that he is on the list of eligible voters. At 8pm, when polling ends, each ballot box, which can contain around 1,000 votes, is sealed. Usually, ballots from four to six districts are counted in one centre.”

How do parties gauge what kind of support they get in a constituency?

The counting procedure is a mystery to many but I’ll try to give you a better view from “inside”. After 8pm, the ballot boxes are sealed in front of both the PAP and Opposition representatives. The boxes will arrive at their respective counting stations. Each counting station (eg: St Andrew’s Secondary) has several counting tables (between 3 to 6 tables) from the district. When the boxes arrived, it will be placed on the counting tables for both PAP and the Opposition member representatives (known as the “Counting Agent”) to examine the sticker seal of the Returning Officer. If the seal is torn or tampered, an inquiry will look into it. In the presence of both parties, the boxes will be opened and the votes will be poured on the table. Each table has around 5 to 6 boxes or around 5000 to 6000 votes. The votes will then be mixed around the table (aka rojaked), then subsequently arranged into orderly stacks. From each stack, the counters will place the votes in either the PAP’s or the Opposition’s tray. Counting agents from the parties are not allowed to touch the votes. For the ambiguous or rejected votes, it will be adjudicated by the Senior Presiding Officer in the presences of the Opposition and PAP representatives.

After the votes have been separated into the trays, the counting agents from PAP and Opposition can roughly gauge the results. The votes in the trays are later bundled into stacks of 100 and tied with rubber band. After the first around of counts have been made, the counters (from the same table) will swap position to recount the votes again. Depending on the Senior Presiding Officer, the votes might be counted 3-5 times. Once the votes are verified after many rounds of counting, the result of the individual counting table will be announced to the both parties’ counting agents. Each counting table is denoted by a district code (eg: AM-21 or SB-67). These district codes are available in the Register of Electors. Each district code roughly represents 10 to 12 blocks in the constituency. Based on the information from the counting agent, the parties can gauge the support from the areas.

The results are faxed over to the Election Department. If there is confirmation of no votes recount, the boxes will be sealed in front of the PAP and Opposition’s counting agents. The votes will then be transported and stored in a vault of the High Court. Only a High Court judge can order the boxes to be opened. After six months, the parties are invited to witness the journey of the boxes to the Tuas incinerator.

Many Opposition candidates such as Steve Chia and Chia Ti Lik have spoken about their confidence in the secrecy of votes. Due to the numerous times of randomizing and mixing the votes, it is virtually impossible to pin-point an individual’s vote.

Opposition made Inroads?
Many people expressed that the Oppositions, especially the Workers' Party, have made inroads into the curbing the invincibility of the PAP. I would both agree and disagree in that statement. In most GEs, one of the GRCs will be the focus of the battle where votes tend to be close. Let us look at the voting patterns and key opposition members in those GRCs.

1988 Eunos GRC, PAP vs WP (Francis Seow, Lee Siew Choh), PAP won 50.89%
1991 Eunos GRC, PAP vs WP (Lee Siew Choh, Mohd Jufrie), PAP won 52.38%
1997 Cheng San GRC, PAP vs WP (JB Jeyaratnam, Tang Liang Hong), PAP won 54.82%
2001 Jurong GRC, PAP vs SDP (Dr Chee Soon Juan) PAP won 79.75%
2006 Aljunied GRC, PAP vs WP (Sylvia Lim, James Gomez), PAP won 56.09%

With the exception of the 2001 GE, which took place under extraordinary circumstances in 9/11 terrorist attack (which might have resulted in a 15-20% vote swing), the "main GRC battle field" tide seemed to turn in favour of the PAP. One should not benchmark against the GE 2001 as the average PAP votes but across the many GEs.

However, I do think the WP made some inroads, maybe not via GE results, but in the qualities of the candidates. In the 2006 GE, WP introduced several candidates with impressive background such as Chia Ti Lik, Perry Tong and Sylvia Lim. By past history, WP never had difficulties introducing candidates with professional backgrounds but seldom have they discovered a "public-charmer", who can win votes with tacful handling of media and issues thrown by the PAP. I guess you know by now, who I am referring to: Sylvia Lim. A friend of mine once mentioned this thoughtful comment, that Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim made a perfect combination. Low Thia Khiang with his grit and fighting spirit is a perfect foil for Sylvia Lim's charisma, charming character and tactful handling of tricky legal issues such as Gomez saga. Perhaps, by next GE, Sylvia can be the next Chiam See Tong in parliament.

The Bitter Aftertaste
Many have voiced their dissatisfaction over the recent elections but could not really point to a single factor that made them felt this way. With all the hype of this election, it is quite an anti-climax when it never really lived up to its expectations. No real key issues were discussed. Oppositions failed to conquer a GRC. Gomez shot himself at his foot. PAP shot both of their feet. MM was up in his old provoking style. SM Goh failed big time at getting Potong Pasir and Hougang back. LHL is ever so elusive when commenting on key issues. Oppositions’ rallies are ever so crowded. PAP rallies are a snore. Amazingly, I’ve just described the whole 9 days of General Election with 9 sentences. To think that we have waited 5 years to listen to these 9 sentences, this is an event not worth waiting for.

But behind the scenes, it does matters a lot of LKY. Just to add your thoughts, I will provide more questions than answers. Many felt that LKY is a liability to LHL and his rule. But why did LKY do the (petty) things such as provoking Gomez to sue him and is so insistent on staying the Cabinet? Is there someone else in the Cabinet that LKY is warily about? Is this person capable of challenging LHL in the coming future, or might have enough clout to cause a party spilt? Will LKY remove this person before he retires (or pass on) from Cabinet?

Friday, May 12, 2006 

Two Oppositions, Two Differing Paths: Part I
Story of the Workers’ Party and Singapore Democratic Party

I’ve always received comments and criticisms for being too much of a mouth-piece of the PAP. Hopefully, this article on the Opposition parties can slant me back to the neutral centre. With the conclusion of the recent General Elections, it is fair to say that Workers’ Party seemed to have more potential to challenge the PAP compared to the rest. This article features the birth, progress and path of the party.

The Workers’ Party (WP)
The WP, formed in 1957, is the longest-surviving opposition party in Singapore. In its relatively long period, the WP has been led by tough-talking personalities who will be remembered for their roles in the political development of this country. One thing is sure when the WP is contesting: they never lack colourful politicians, such as David Marshall, Dr Lee Siew Choh, J.B. Jeyaratnam, Tang Liang Hong and, the current favourite, James Gomez, to spark the local politics. The WP can be seen in three eras: David Marshall (1957 to 1970), J.B. Jeyaratnam (1971 to 2000) and Low Thia Khiang (2001 to present)

Under “Marshall Law”
Many would remember David Marshall as the first Chief Minister; the man who failed in gaining Singapore’s independence from the British but seldom the man who founded the Workers’ Party. Lim Yew Hock, the authoritarian second Chief Minister of Singapore, was his then-deputy in the Labour Front government. Lim advised Marshall that his should establish a party as a political base to mobilize the people towards independence. The new party would later prove useful to him when he vacated the post of Chief Minister.

Marshall was quick to see his party playing a moderate, alternative role to both the left-wing PAP (under the far leftist Lim Chin Siong) and the right-wing Labour Front Government of Lim Yew Hock (who liberally used political detention to maintain his power – sounds familiar? ;) ). Marshall openly clashed with Lim on the manner of dealing with the leftists and communists – political detention. Having felt that the Trades Union Congress being a puppet of Lim Yew Hock, Marshall reiterated his view that his new party will be guided by his desire to see the trade unions flourish in a more independent role vis-à-vis the government. This special inclination towards the trade unions not only reflected in the party name, Workers’ Party, but also in the party constitution. During then (now amended), the Constitution states that of the 30 Council members elected “at least two-thirds shall be trade unionists”.

As a political party, it was not doing that well. Marshall knew that the strength of his new party was dependent on the support of the pro-Communist trade union members. In the Battle for Merger, Lee Kuan Yew charged the party of being manipulated by Fang Chuang Pi (the “Plen”) – the Communists from MCP. Chang Yuen Tong, Executive Committee member of the WP resigned when LKY showed the evidence.

In the 1958 by-elections, due to the Plen’s undertaking to LKY, pro-communist votes were swung away from the WP, resulting in humiliating defeat for Marshall. Marshall regained his parliamentary seat in 1961 – at a time when all political parties were hotly debating the issue of merger with the Malayan Federation. His main argument was to object to the PAP’s idea of Malaysia, charging the latter’s vision as “selling out” of Singapore’s interests. Marshall instead called for complete merger, with Singapore seeking equal rights for its citizens in the new federation. He further maintained that if Singapore could not negotiate for a complete merger, she should seek independence on her own. Within his own party, there were differing views between him, Secretary-General Sum Chong Heng and Chua Chin Kiat. In the end, a compromise was reached on the party position, but the uneasiness never ended.

In the 1963 General Elections, things got worse for Marshall. Not only did he lose his seat, he even lost his election deposit. Dejected, he went into political oblivion and decided to concentrate on his legal career and was later appointed as the Singapore’s Ambassador to France.

The Fire of J.B. Jeyaratnam
After Marshall’s resignation, JBJ took over. Within three days, JBJ was the Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party. The infusion of new professionals, such as lawyers, architects and unionists, boosted the party’s image to an extent that the party was confident enough to declare that they are contest in all the seats in the 1972 GE (but in the end, they didn’t contest in all seats, 8 seats returned to the PAP uncontested). JBJ had quite a credible background after serving in key appointments such as Registrar of the Supreme Court and as the First District Judge. But despite JBJ’s background and infusion of professionals in the WP, the PAP won all 65 seats with an average of 69.2% of the votes. JBJ contested in Farrer Park constituency but lost badly to the PAP, Dr Lee Chiaw Meng, gaining only 2,668 out of 12,707 votes.

The 1976 elections was no difference when the PAP won all 69 seats, the third successive clean sweep. JBJ, whose election rally at the car park in Chai Chee on the eve of voting was “packed like sardines”, performed well with 40.08% of the votes. He was the highest-scoring opposition candidate in the election.

The turning point for the WP and JBJ came in October 1981, with the resignation of the incumbent Anson MP, Devan Nair (who was appointed as the President). JBJ defeated the PAP’s Pang Kim Hin by 633 votes to break the PAP’s electoral infallibility. However, one must note that several events leading to the Anson by-election led to the PAP losing that seat. When Devan Nair left Anson to become Singapore’s third President, many of his followers were unhappy with Pang as he brought his own men into the election campaign. One prominent person belonging to the Devan Nair camp was Ong Ah Heng, branch secretary to Anson and now a present Member of Parliament. Pang, was a political lightweight, which Anson residents were unhappy that PAP sent him there instead of other prominent candidates. Whatever the events, JBJ won and PAP received a rude wakeup call.

The next election in 1984 was a bolt from the blue as the PAP saw their percentage votes dropped from 75.7% in 1980 to 62.9% in 1984. To add salt on the PAP wounds, Chiam See Tong from the Singapore Democratic Party defeated Mah Bow Tan (PAP) with a thumping 60.28% of the votes. Chiam and JBJ were the only two oppositions elected into the parliament that year.

JBJ’s time in parliament was short-lived when he was disqualified from parliament when the court found him guilty for false declaration of the WP’s accounts. By such sentence, he lost his seat in Anson. On 23 May 1987, 16 people were detained under the Internal Security Act charged for involvement in a plot to overthrow the Government, in what came to be widely known as the “Marxist conspiracy”. The ISD also arrested Patrick Seong, a lawyer who was counsel for some of the detainees. He subsequently admitted that he had encouraged them to issue the statement as a means of discrediting the government that a former Law Society president, Francis Seow, knew about it. Seow was also later picked up and only released in July 1988 after serving his jail sentence.

In the 1988 GE, WP successfully recruited Francis Seow, a former Solicitor-General, and WP competed in 32 of the 81 seats. The public and media attention was on Seow, especially when he managed to attract large crowds to rallies. Mugslinging was at his peak when Seow called Goh Chok Tong a “political eunuch in Emperor Lee’s court”. When the results came, PAP won all the seats except Potong Pasir. However, Seow did the damage in Eunos GRC, where he contested together with seasoned politician Dr Lee Siew Choh and Mohd Khalit, garnering 49.11% of the valid votes. Both Dr Lee and Seow were offered NCMP seats but Seow was disqualified – being sued by the Government for various wrongdoings, including tax evasions. That was the beginning of his smear campaign against the government which later sees him migrating to United States. He has not returned to Singapore since then and had published a book in 1994, “To Catch a Tartar” Life in Lee Kuan Yew’s Prison,” alleging that he was tortured during detention.

For the Workers’ Party itself, throughout 1990, and through its newsletter, the Hammer, the party continued to raise many issues and criticisms against the Government. Then came the snap 1991 General Elections, called upon by the new Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, barely three-and-a-half years after the previous one in 1988. The opposition camp was obviously caught off guard by the sudden announcement. However, it also caught the PAP MPs off guard and the tactic backfired. This time around, the focus was again in Eunos GRC with Jufrie Mahmood, a Workers’ Party team member leading the charge. He attacked the PAP’s Malay MPs as “a bunch of yes men” and charged the PM for resorting yet again to what it described as “scare and smear tactics” to discredit its candidates and the WP. The PAP won 77 seats but were visibly shocked to lose four seats (to Chiam See Tong (SDP), Ling How Doong (SDP), Cheo Chai Chen (SDP) and Low Thia Khiang (WP)). The WP team in Eunos GRC performed strongly when it secured 47.6% of the votes against the PAP team.

In 1997 General Elections, the Worker’s Party sprung yet another surprise and gave the PAP one of the toughest fights. It fielded a well known Chinese lawyer, Tang Liang Hong, active in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and a former Chairman of the Chinese High School. And the battleground was set at Cheng San GRC. According to JBJ in his book, The Hatchet Man of Singapore, he said, “When I led the team into the nomination center along with Tang Liang Hong, the PAP team, led by Lee Yock Suan, who had already registered their candidacy with the registration officer, showed their shock and dismay plainly. They had not expected me in Cheng San. They believed that I was going Kampong Glam which was then a single constituency where I had done the rounds few days before Nomination Day. This was a deliberate ploy.”

Cheng San, the mountain of peace, erupted like a volcano through the campaign period of eight days (now it is nine days). Goh Chok Tong, Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong and Tony Tan took charge of the campaign in Cheng San, with Lee Yock Suan relegated to the sidelines. Goh Chok Tong told the electorate that it was a battle between him and the Workers’ Party. GCT gave this message, “You decide. You choose Tang Liang Hong, Jeyeratnam, raise their status and lower the Prime Minister’s the Deputy Prime Ministers’ stature, in Singapore, internationally, that will have very serious consequences.”

“What we are now doing is to… put all the chips on the table. It is a winner-takes-all situation. MRT, LRT, Punggol 21, upgrading, estate improvement, libraries, kindergartens, better schools… all these are plans which… have put to the people.”

“We win, Cheng San will get not just the attention of Lee Yock Suan and the team. Cheng San will get the Government’s attention, my attention, Lee Hsien Loong’s attention, Tony Tan’s attention. Even in Marine Parade you don’t get such attention. So you win big or you lose big. So tomorrow, you have to decide.”

That was the message delivered by GCT. Personally, I was totally put-off by this. PAP’s other tactic was to aim their guns at Tang Liang Hong, branding him a Chinese chauvinist. Tang and accused him as a “political opportunist”. The results came and the PAP won by a close margin of 54.8%, a sharp drop of 9.3% from the 64.1% in 1991. Low Thia Khiang, again, managed to retain his seat at Hougang. After the election was over, Tang faced a barrage of legal suits for alleged defamation against the 11 PAP leaders. This episode generated tremendous media coverage both local and overseas. He fled Singapore, first to Hong Kong, then London and Johor. JBJ too did not escape from being sued for defamation for his statement during the election rally. By the time of the 2001 GE, he was no longer electorally ready. After the Elections, Low Thia Khiang, the only WP candidate to have won a seat, took over the WP leadership from Jeyaratnam.

The Low Thia Khiang era is still history in the makings. The evolution of the Workers’ Party ran from central, to leftist and now, back to central. Coming into the recent election, WP might have finally found a credible, likeable and sensible candidate in Sylvia Lim. The future of the WP, maybe bright or maybe gloom; depends on the people’s perception. Nonetheless, they represent the best hope of a credible alternative voice to the Singapore politics. I guess I should not make this into a 10,000 words essay and stop here. If you are interested in reading further on WP, the book, “Parties and Politics: A Study of Opposition Parties and the PAP in Singapore”, by Hussin Mutalib and JBJ’s “The Hatchet Man of Singapore”, would be good sources to refer to. Stories on Singapore Democratic Party will be featured in the coming weeks.

Note: Earlier, I have posted the wrong photo of Francis Seow and have mistakened Dr Francis Seow-Cheon for the former-WP Francis Seow. My deepest apologies to Dr Francis Seow-Cheon and family. The photo has been removed with immediate effect.

Friday, May 05, 2006 

General Elections: The PAP Perspectives
Yes, I have been notably silent over the past couple of days and only waited to the day before the polling day before writing. Busy, with work. Busy, hunting elections news from inside. Basically, I was overwhelmed with commitments, so much so that I didn’t even have time to check my emails. Following the advice of at82, I guess it is good to introduce some PAP perspectives into the blogosphere, since opposition have other "mouthpieces". There are some unanswered comments in the previous articles as well as via email. Rest assured that I will get to them as soon as time permits. Here are some issues to think about and pictures from today’s campaigning to savor.

Why Gomez-gate?
The cctv Gomez video has been broadcast over the news in “Tammy-like” frequency. His name is fast becoming the equivalent of “Mohamed Jufrie Mahmood – 1991”, “Tang Liang Hong – 1997” and “Dr Chee Soon Juan – 2001”. There is a similarity and difference in such trends.

Maybe it is known to many that the PAP’s strategy is to focus on one “rotten apple” in the basket of many to cast the entire consignment into the dumps. In the past, oppositions tends to shoot themselves in the foot by saying something silly or doing something silly to provoke retaliation. Gomez seemed to be on course for that. In fact, the “Gomez-lightning” struck twice when he failed to fill up the nomination forms properly in the 2001 elections and now the latest fiasco. Whether he is the crook or not, it doesn’t matter, for one purpose: Sylvia Lim.

The reason why PAP pointed their heavy-weight guns at Gomez was to divert the attention away from Sylvia Lim. Sylvia Lim, is one candidate that fits all description of a good and credible opposition that PAP mentioned, but with one problem; she is contesting in a GRC. PAP wouldn’t mind having her in the parliament but can’t afford to lose a GRC as well as a vital Minister in George Yeo, the modern architect of Singapore’s economic success. When the electoral boundaries map was drawn, they probably tried to tempt WP to send Sylvia Lim for a single ward in Yio Chu Kang and probably would be willing to sacrifice Seng Han Tong for her. But they didn’t bite the bait. Thus, they have to focus on a new direction and issue to ensure Aljunied remains in PAP hands. Aljunied is historically a weak ground for PAP. In 1991, PAP won the Eunos GRC (now part of Aljunied) by only 52.38% of the votes. Another part of the present-Aljunied GRC also belonged to the Cheng San GRC in 1997. PAP did not do much better in Cheng San GRC when they garnered only 54.82% of the votes. This is no doubt a shaky ground for the PAP.

However, unlike all the other elections, this one is different. The Worker’s Party now has a credible and likeable candidate in Sylvia Lim, whose actions and words are well-thought and unfaultable. In addition, the local media (so-called mouthpiece of the ruling) has an unhealthy (in the eyes of the PAP) obsession with her. Take all the Straits Times reports over the past 3 months and count the number of Sylvia Lim’s reports, pictures and coverage. The number far exceeded the total number of reports and pictures for all 17 PAP female candidates. When NUS had their forum recently with Chiam See Tong (SDA), Indranee Rajah (PAP) and Sylvia Lim (SDP), the contrast in the photos was clear. Indranee was pictured with her jaw-dropped defeated look; Chiam was photoed like a caring grandfather and Sylvia with a motherly-like beaming smile. Indeed, the PAP are worried about losing Aljunied. When the Gomez issue came, they had to pounce on it, but over-cooked it.

The PAP expected the WP to react strongly to the criticism on Gomez and hoped that WP candidates might slip their tongue because of it. They didn’t bite the bait again. Instead, Sylvia Lim put PAP on the defensive and was portrayed as the sensible heroine of the whole fiasco. In simple terms to summarize this Gomez-issue, Gomez was the bad guy (perception-wise), Sylvia Lim was the good guy (or woman) and PAP lost overall in this issue. That is one reason why the PAP decided to cut loose this issue and tell the public to move on.

Rolling-in the MM Tank
With the threat of the WP looming, MM decided to step in and tried his old tactics of provoking his political opponents. Sensibility of the WP prevailed and they didn’t bite the bait for the third time. Many expected MM to step down during this elections but he didn’t. This is significant for many reasons.

In other countries such as Europe, Party splits are common. In Malaysia, UMNO demonstrated that this is not peculiar to Asian societies. To MM, this election represents crucial importance in consolidating the transition. He will not rest until he thinks this transition is complete. Looking at all the new candidates, the person with the most Ministerial potential is RADM Lui Tuck Yew. Without a doubt, he will be groomed to be the next Defense Minister, a vital post for any government. Under MM’s constituency, he will be “nurtured” by MM to provide loyal support to PM Lee in the future. These new candidates are expected to replace the “GCT-men” such as Lim Boon Heng, Lee Boon Yang and Yeo Cheow Tong.

Cyber-cop for Blogs?
Elections have gone for 8 days. Blogs and podcasts on elections have been active yet no arrest or even a slight warning has been made. Let’s do a quick check. Singabloodypore. Checked! The Void Deck. Checked! SgRally. Checked! Yawning Bread. Checked! Seems like all the political blogs have not been touched as predicted earlier.

I don’t think I need to explain the reasons again, but my MDA friend said that they have no intentions of monitoring the blogs at all. I’ll place all my bets that the law will be revised in the next electoral term.

Secrecy of Votes?
This was a hot issue when SM Goh mentioned that upgrading will still be possible for residents in Realty Park if the votes are higher than 60%. It sparked a wildfire of questions on the secrecy of votes. So is our vote really a secret?

After tomorrow, I’ll be able to assure everyone out there what happened from the first casting of the votes to the sealing of the ballot boxes. Why would I know? Yours truly, has been invited as the external counting agent to monitor the procedure of the votes as well as the secrecy.

Just to shed some light on why one can estimate the votes for each area without knowing the identity of the voter who cast the vote. At each polling station, the PAP, oppositions and members of the public can participate as the polling agents. Each PAP as well as opposition parties are expected to send their members as polling agents to ensure that the game is played fairly. This is not as important as counting agents. Both camps will send members as counting agents when the casting is closed at 8pm tomorrow. Agents from both camps as well as invited members of public will monitor the counting of votes in each sub-district such as ITE-MacPherson or Pei-Hwa Primary School. Thus, representatives will know how their party fairs (in terms of percentage) based on these sub-polling stations without being allowed to know the identities of individual votes. Example: percentage of votes from Si Ling Secondary School will be representative of the 14 blocks in Sembawang GRC and made known to the counting agents. Subsequently, the boxes will be sealed (with wax and tape, stamped by the presiding officer) and send to the main principal counting centre (for the example of Sembawang, it is Admiralty Secondary School) to total up the votes. Thus the counting agents can and will feedback to their candidates their performance for each sub-district.

Unless there is a dispute in the results, the official wax-stamped seal of the polling box will not be broken until the burning of the votes after the stipulated months. Thus, there is no issue of personal votes being known to the political parties.

How Good is Good?
Every time a journalist’s microphone is pointed into the lips of the candidates, they are always asked about the percentage of votes they expect to win. One should not and could not expect the same high percentage during the 2001 elections. The 2001 GE took place under extraordinary circumstances (the September 11 terror attacks), which swung 10%-15% of the votes in PAP’s favour. Based on that, the average percentage of votes is expected to reset to the 65% mark. Here is my prediction of the expected target of the PAP wards from the PAP perspectives (why the PAP perspectives? Read the title of this article!) :

Aljunied GRC – 5-10% below average
Ang Mo Kio GRC – 10-15% above average
East Coast GRC – 5-10% above average
Jalan Besar GRC – 0-5% above average
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC – 0-5% above average
Sembawang GRC – 0-5% below average
Tampiness GRC – 0-5% below average

Bukit-Panjang SMC – 8-12% above average
Chua Chu Kang SMC – 5-10% below average
Hougang SMC – WP to win by 5%
Joo Chiat SMC – 3-8% below average
MacPherson SMC – 0-5% above average
Nee Soon Central SMC – 5-10% above average
Nee Soon East SMC – 0-5% above average
Potong Pasir SMC – PAP to win by 2%
Yio Chu Kang SMC – 0-5% below average

The Idealist

  • Thrasymachus
  • Propagating In: Singapore
  • The Critic, The Philosopher, The Pragmatist, The Moralist, The Egalitarian, The Confused, The True-Blue Singaporean
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    The author of this blog bears no responsibility for any misinterpretation, libel, defamation, injury and death as a result of reading this blog. Contents are high subjective and readers should read with caution. All readers should be 18 years and above, with half a decent brain to judge the validity of the articles.

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