Thursday, 19 June 2014

Coalition Govt III, or The Third Scenario from Speculation 2016

Speculation is always fun. Take a bit of facts. Fantasize a bit. Throw in a bit a luck.

And you're Spiderman.

Or PAP is out.

In my last speculation, my "as-close-to-realistic-as-possible" assessment is that even in a worst case scenario, the PAP would still hang on for at least one more term in 2016.

But what about a "worst-worst-damn-unlucky-suay-suay" situation? (Or "best-best-tio-beh-pio" scenario if that is what you fantasise about?)

What if Chiam See Tong redouble his efforts to take Bishan-Toa Payoh, and LKY decides not to run in Tanjong Pagar, and this resulted in a backlash in Tanjong Pagar.

What if SPP wins Bishan-Toa Payoh, and say NSP takes Tanjong Pagar? Or RP takes Tanjong Pagar, where the Anson supporters still remember JBJ, and votes for his son.

This post is purely in the realm of speculation and fantasy. This is the third scenario of 2016. There is a 10% swing against PAP, WP wins 19 seats, and NSP breaks through with 15 seats. SPP takes the 5 seats in Bishan-Toa Payoh, and RP in a surprise win, takes Tanjong Pagar (5 seats) in part because LKY decides to retire completely from politics.

What now?

Well, firstly PAP cannot form the government, as they have less than 50% of the seats in Parliament.

Well, not by itself.

PAP could try to form a coalition. Here they have several options. Well, at least 4 options. A coalition with WP, NSP, SPP, or RP. Assuming any of them wants an alliance with PAP.

One possibility is that NO opposition party will form a coalition with PAP on grounds of principle. I cannot see RP going for it. But I could be wrong.

SPP may also reject any idea of coalition on principle. HOWEVER, CST is old and in an opposition alliance (WP, NSP, RP & SPP), he may be sidelined or even ignored. PAP could offer him a post as second minister of a ministry, or a minister in the PM's office and that could well be his crowning achievement in his political career. He may decide that his best contribution (as a swan song) may be to form a coalition govt with the PAP, with a proven track record. He would be assured that his legacy would be leaving as a minister, in a competent government. The risk of a coalition with the other opposition parties is that none of them have ever run Singapore before. At best a town council. There is a good chance they might run SG into the ground. And that would be his legacy - running SG into the ground with the other opposition parties, in his last (or near last) hurrah. Not something to warm your heart.

NSP is an unknown to me. Or rather, I do not know their philosophy or principles. So I do not know if they would reject PAP on principle. However, for the amount of investment in GE2011, they had no returns at all. No SMC or GRC. They finally get a GRC in 2016, and they are definitely going to form the government with the other opposition parties!

Unless one of them plays the rest out and forms a coalition govt with the PAP.

Prisoner's Dilemma.

Cooperate. Or Defect.

All things being equal, with no consideration of political philosophy or principles, NSP should defect. That is the rational (cautious) move in the Prisoner's Dilemma.

And what would WP do. As the party with the most experience, with the most wins, and with momentum on their side, WP would be the natural leader. But a very vulnerable leader. See Scenario B in this speculative post.

In that post, I speculated that IF the WP wanted to hold the coalition together, they would have to make a LOT of concessions to hold the coalition of non-PAP parties together.

And even with all that concessions, there is still no guarantee that the coalition would hold.

Note that in the Punggol East By-election, SDA and RP did not defer to WP or show solidarity or even cooperation.

Trust levels are low.

Political parties are being formed, rise up, and crash down. If the opposition were united, they would array themselves to leverage on each other's strength to oppose the PAP. Instead they jostle for position and try to promote their own agenda. Or their own personal "brand".

So WP would see that they are in a precarious position. They may be the "winningest" opposition party, and may be the defacto leader, but they may not be able to hold onto to the govt.

Even if they horse-trade until a coalition of opposition parties is cobbled together for them to form the government, all it takes is for one of the component parties to make a motion of "No confidence" and the WP coalition government would be thrown out.

A weak coalition is ultimately unstable, and there has been no evidence that the opposition parties can work together to run a country.

What should the WP do?

The unthinkable?

Think out of the box.

Their best option, the party they can trust most, is in fact, the PAP.

Think about it.

WP most stable alliance will be a coalition with the PAP. The PAP will not destablise the country with "no confidence" motions, and while the other parties can move for a no-confidence motion, unless WP decides to break the alliance to form a new coalition with the other parties, the motion will fail without the votes of the PAP or WP.

So WP's best chance is to negotiate an alliance with the PAP.

What about the PAP?

What is their best move?

The PAP has several strategies to consider if they want to remain in Government.

They have a lot of options.

A coalition with SPP, if possible (if CST decides it is his best contribution), may be the least troubling for PAP. Or it may seem that way. But SPP is a one-man show, and it will depend on how CST assesses the future of the SPP. Certainly, it would be a victory of sorts for the SPP to be in government ahead of any other opposition party. As a veteran, as the longest serving opposition MP, CST would seal his legacy with a coalition government with PAP.

The question will be whether he is looking for his place in history, or a place for the opposition in the future.

If CST turns down that offer for whatever reasons, PAP's second best option is the WP. Better the devil you know. WP is quite reasonable and PAP can work with them. Which is not to say that the NSP is unreasonable. PAP just does not have any way to gauge their possible performance.

That said, PAP must be aware that they may well be training their replacements.

The least disruptive coalition, may well be one with PAP and WP, but only if WP makes a lot of concessions, and PAP accepts their role as a declining power. (As described briefly in the first post on Coalition Government.)

Fat chance? I think so too. But this is the realm of speculation. So let's indulge.

What are the Concessions and Compromises that WP and PAP would have to make to alloy the least disruptive coalition government?

Concessions and Compromises

Firstly, WP would need to be willing to be the understudy. So they may negotiate, say, for Minister of state posts. They would be offering a coalition government where they would be the understudy, temporarily subsuming their interests and agenda for the PAP interests and agenda. Letting the PAP lead, perhaps for the last time.

In return, they want to learn how the PAP govern so that they can take over eventually.

But, can it work?

The PAP will know that the WP is under-studying them to eventually replace the PAP. The PAP would in effect be training their replacement. Can they trust each other? From the previous post on Coalition Govt:
It may well be that there would a an "official Cabinet" meeting which is just for show, while the PAP have secret cabinet meetings, and the WP have shadow cabinet meetings.

Say PAP ministers come up with a plan that will benefit SG. They will of course want to ensure that PAP members/MP/Ministers get the credit. Is WP going to stand idly by and let the PAP take credit?

Of course not!

WP will either try to a) claim credit as well, b) sabotage the plan, c) blame the PAP for the failure of the plan (sabotaged), or d) roll out a better plan from the mistakes made and lessons learned from the first plan.
Even if they accept that this is best for Singapore, and hope that by training the WP, they can instill in the WP an understanding of the core strategies and immutable weaknesses that Singapore faces, it calls for the PAP to accept that they are history.

And that WP shares PAP's perspective on the world, and Singapore's place in the world

It is all highly unlikely.

This is another more indirect Prisoner's Dilemma writ large and complicated.

All the problems with coalition government still applies. PAP and WP do not have common goals. Or even if they claim common goals, their priorities, perspectives, philosophies, and worldview are different.

Or should be different.

BUT, one might argue that the whole point of having a different government is so things would be done differently.

And so that might be the WP's dilemma. In trying to ease the transition, they may be seen as being or becoming too aligned to the PAP's approach. They risk being tarred with the mistakes of the PAP during the coalition, and then they will not be able to distance themselves in the following elections.

In subsuming their agenda temporarily, they risk their legitimacy, their credibility, and perhaps even their identity.

What then?

A coalition government seems to be the worst scenario for SG. Once we head down this path, it would seem like there is only a spiral to disaster. There are so many possibilities.

Perhaps the best scenario is for an opposition to win a clear majority, thus rendering a coalition government moot.

However in 2016, I think the PAP will still return to government.

WP will hold Hougang and Aljunied, and very likely Punggol East as well. They will probably make a foray into East Coast GRC, and they may well take that.

However, at this point, unless their capability improves, that may be at the limits of their ability.

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