Two years ago, I suggested a strategy for the PAP.
Not to win back Aljunied, Hougang, or Punggol East. Those wards are for the WP to lose. Not for the PAP to win back.
Two years ago, I noted:
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.The theme of that post is that the PAP doesn't have a strategy.
Oh, I am sure they THINK they have a strategy, but who can disabuse them of that notion?
What they have is at best tactics. What they have at best are talking points. What they have at best are internal mission and vision - not strategies for winning elections.
Then the results of AGO's audit of the AHPETC came along. And they thought they had an in.
AHPETC gave them what they (PAP) thought of as a Golden Opportunity. Here was their chance to show Singaporeans that the WP was not as transparent as they (WP) claim to be, not as capable and competent as the PAP, and not as "clean".
But the effect of their "full-court press" will be limited. Those who support the PAP will find fresh ammo. Those who support the WP will see this as institutional bullying. And the few that are on the sidelines... well, maybe some may be convinced the WP are incompetent or disingenuous. And maybe some will just be turned off by the "bullying".
Will the PAP be able to parley this issue into an election winner and take back Aljunied?
IMHO, I don't think so. There is a chance that they might. The SG voter is quite rational and there may be enough silent majority to turn the tide for the PAP. BUT... a rational voter may also say, "I voted for the WP because I was unhappy with the PAP, because I want the PAP to do things differently. What they are doing to WP is not different. Yes, the WP may not be as competent or even as clean as the PAP, but I already suspected that and I was willing to accept a less competent, less experienced party in the hopes that they will do things differently. Maybe they have done the wrong things, but an inexperienced team will make mistakes."
And no, I am not interested in arguing whether AHPETC mistakes were the mistakes of an honest, inexperienced team, or the "Missed Takes" of a less than honest team.
It is the perception and willingness of the voters to believe or disbelieve AHPETC. And my feel is that this is not how WP will lose ground.
And using this incident to leverage on PAP's "advantages" or "selling points" is classic PAP "strategy" - such as it is.
So the PAP may win in parliament, but will it win where it matters - at the polls for Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East?
I don't think so.
The question for the voter was never, "Is the WP as competent as the PAP?"
Rightly, wrongly, rationally, irrationally, the voter simply wants to know, "do I have a choice other than PAP?" and they are willing to take a chance... with WP.
And the voters are quite discerning. They have not simply plumbed for whatever opposition they were offered. SDP and RP were quite clearly rejected.
WP was supported in part because while they were not PAP, they were not too combative, not too different.
Many have called them "PAP Lite", and it may well have been the only viable strategy to win against the PAP.
As for the PAP, I feel sorry for them. They are losing ground, and they do not understand why. They are meritocratic technocrats and they do not understand how democracy works, how politics is played, and what Singaporeans want.
[Afternote: See also "The lose-lose Problem of AHPETC".]