The PAP is not particularly innovative, experimental, or able to think out of the box.
When Catherine Lim wrote her critique of the PAP - the Great Affective Divide - instead of recognising the truth in her words, they chose to shoot the messenger.
When they lost Anson, Potong Pasir, and Hougang, their basic strategy was to just flail away at their opponents until one was disqualified, one moved on, and... oh they still haven't won back Hougang.
Ok, I'm exaggerating. They did win back Bt Gombak, and Nee Soon Central... though that might be because the opposition candidates self-destructed.
The point is, their "strategy" was not a strategy. It was at best a theme of their campaign, a tactic of implementation or messaging.
There was no strategic thinking in terms of long-term maneouvers. No broader strategic messaging.
I hope when the PM said that their candidate for Punggol East, Dr Koh had potential to be more than just an MP that that was not their "long term strategic messaging". If it was, it failed.
It failed in the sense that it did not have the desired effect, if the desired effect was for people to realise that PAP has a long term plan for Dr Koh, and to vote for him so that the PAP can carry out their plan.
It also failed as a strategic message because the PAP seems to think that what they are planning or thinking is important to the people. It is not pertinent.
And all the while the WP message is more pertinent to the voters. What the PAP needs to do is to ensure that their message is as pertinent if not more so than the WP.
For a start, the PAP should pull out all their efforts in the lost wards - Aljunied, Hougang, and Punggol East.
As the governing party, their concerns should be the national agenda. Not be pre-occupied with winning back a few wards. The people has spoken (through the ballots) listen to them. Respect their choice.
All the PAP needs to do is to win enough seats to form the govt and formulate national policies. National policies apply to all citizens regardless of where they live. Health, Education, Environment, social welfare apply to all regardless of where they live. The CDCs can deliver local govt (ministry) service where necessary.
Which is not to say that the PAP is abandoning the lost wards. If there are PAP members who are willing to work the ground and stand for election, and are willing to volunteer to do so, they should be allowed to do so and be given the support in those wards as necessary. But no PAP member should be assigned (i.e. ordered) to the lost wards just to maintain the PAP presence.
The WP is a competent party and they can manage the town council and run their wards. For the PAP to hover over them is an insinuation that the WP cannot be trusted. That is inherently wrong. The people has spoken and the PAP must listen. To continue in wards where they have been rejected is arrogant and disrespectful.
And because programmes take time to take full effect, the PAP should declare now that since they are pulling out of the lost wards (except for those where there are PAP volunteers), that they will not be contesting in those wards in the next GE. This is to allow WP time to formulate and implement their programmes for the people. So Aljunied, Hougang, and Punggol East will remain in WP hands, unless some other opposition party can wrest those wards from WP.
Based on the last by-election, it is unlikely that any other opposition parties will be able to beat WP
This will in turn allow the PAP to focus on not losing any more wards. Their message in the next GE is that wherever PAP loses a ward, they will respect the wishes of the electorate, and not contest in that ward in the next GE. So a vote for WP (or other opposition party) may well be a vote for TWO elections.
And since the PAP will pull out of the ward if they lose, this pulls the teeth of the WP's (and any other opposition party's) campaign message of "vote for WP and get TWO MPs".
This is what I mean by strategic thinking and strategic messaging. The strategy here immediately neutralises the WP mischievious message of "buy 1 get 1 free" which is a weakness of PAP's own making, by continuing to hover over a lost ward. WP has turned PAP's "strategy" (if it can be called that!) against themselves. What strategy is it to just pound away on the ground?
And by promising not to return if they lose, PAP is raising the stakes for voting WP.
And the PAP is not losing anything. Hougang has been held for over 20 years. Pounding away has not worked. Not returning to Hougang will not matter.
Realistically, it is unlikely the PAP will regain Aljunied in the next elections.
And it is also unlikely (this may be premature) to win back Punggol East.
So take a break. Leave WP to a walkover in those wards. If they are lucky.
If they are not, the other opposition will try their luck in Aljunied, Hougang, and Punggol East.
PAP can sit back and analyse the cut and thrust, the parry and riposte of the contest between opposition parties. It would be interesting to see other opposition parties trying to tear down the WP. People expect the PAP to try to tear down the WP. It is more interesting to see other opposition parties try to tear down the WP (like in this last By-Election).
And if WP challenges another GRC or several wards, the PAP can stay focused on their defence instead of trying to defend and attack at the same time.
After the elections, the PAP should poll the residents of Aljunied, Hougang, and Punggol East. If there is good feedback (objective! not just from PAP supporters), they can re-insert their presence and try for the next GE (2021). If the sentiment is still strongly anti-PAP, leave. Accept that you are not wanted.
If there are any newly lost wards, pull out. Against WP and any opposition candidate who try to use the "buy 1 get 1 free" message, tell them that they are mistaken. PAP's new strategy is to listen to the people. Where they are not wanted, the PAP will not go in. For the sake of democracy, opposition needs to learn how to run the country (or at least a ward). PAP needs to give them that chance.
Again, if there are PAP members who are willing to volunteer to work the ground in an opposition ward and to stand for elections against WP, then and only then should the PAP support these "volunteers".
This will also be an added point in favour of this candidate. He (or she) volunteered because of his passion, because he believe in the residents, not because he was ordered to, or because it was the PAP plan. So when elections comes around, that point will be in his favour. He is not just following PAP's orders. He is his own man, with his own passion.
See also, "PAP's Aljunied Dilemma"
See also, "What the voters want..."