Thursday, 17 September 2015

The state of the opposition after GE2015

I've referred to most of the opposition parties as "irrelevant" before Polling Day.

Let's see if they have achieved relevance.

The parties and their Performanc

First, the winningest opposition, the Workers Party.

Retained 6 seats, lost Punggol East. In all other contests, losing seats were all above 31%, with Punggol East (48%) the narrowest loss.
Nee Soon GRC:     PAP-66.83%,  WP-33.17%
East Coast GRC:  PAP-60.73%,  WP-39.27%
Aljunied GRC:      WP-50.95%,   PAP-49.05%
Jalan Besar GRC: PAP-67.73%,  WP-32.27% 
Fengshan SMC:           PAP-57.5%,  WP-42.5%
Hougang SMC:            WP-57.69%,   PAP-42.31%
Punggol East SMC:     WP 48.24%,   PAP-51.76%
Sengkang West SMC: PAP-62.11%,  WP-37.89%
MacPherson SMC:      PAP-65.58%, WP-33.6%,   NSP-0.82%
In GE2011, they had 46.6% support in all the wards they contested. This year, they polled 39.75% in the seats they contested. A more than 6 percentage point drop (almost 7%). 

[28 Feb Correction: Fengshan figures. Thank you to Ishwar for spotting the error. Impressively, 5 months after the fact. Previously, the results for Bt Panjang SMC was erroneously provided as the Fengshan result.]

NSP

Next, the losingest party in 2011 - fielded the most candidates then, yet failed to secure even one seat - was the National Solidarity Party. Again, they failed to win any seats. While they got 39% of the votes in all the wards they contested in 2011, this GE they polled 23% to 28%, or 25.27% overall. Their attempt to be a spoiler in MacPherson pulled down their overall percentage. They suffered a more than 13 percentage point drop.
Tampines GRC:     PAP-72.06%, NSP-27.94%
Sembawang GRC: PAP-72.28%, NSP-27.72%

Pioneer SMC: PAP-76.34%, NSP-23.66%
MacPherson SMC: PAP-65.58%, NSP-0.82%, WP-33.6%
SPP

Chiam See Tong's party (a.k.a. Singapore People's Party) polled 41% in GE2011. But for this GE, other than Potong Pasir (33%), rest polled in the mid to upper 20s. Overall, SPP polled 27.08%. A drop of about 14 percentage points.
Bishan- Toa Payoh GRC: PAP-73.59%, SPP-26.41% 
Mountbatten SMC:        PAP-71.84%, SPP-28.16%
Potong Pasir SMC:         PAP-66.41%, SPP-33.59%
Hong Kah North SMC:  PAP-74.76%, SPP-25.24%

SDP

The Singapore Democratic Party was the most improved party in 2011, polling almost 37% then (in the previous two GEs, they polled in the low 20s). This GE, they once again polled in the mid 20s to low 30s - aggregating 31.23% or a 6 point drop from 2011.
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC:  PAP-66.62%, SDP-33.38%
Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC:       PAP-68.73%, SDP-31.27% 
Bukit Batok SMC:     PAP-72.99%, SDP-26.40%, Independent-0.6%
Bukit Panjang SMC: PAP- 68.38%, SDP-31.62%
Yuhua SMC:               PAP-73.54%, SDP-26.46%


RP

Reform Party debuted in 2011 with 32% polled by it's 11 candidates. This GE, it polled in the low 20s or less, averaging 20.6%, a loss of over 11 points.
Ang Mo Kio GRC: PAP- 78.63%, RP-21.37%
West Coast GRC:   PAP 78.57%, RP-21.43% 
Radin Mas SMC:    PAP-77.25%, RP-12.71%, Independent-10.04%

The Other No-Hit Wonders - low to mid 20s

These small, personality-driven (or ego-driven) parties are irrelevant and insignificant. 
Pasir Ris -Punggol GRC (6): PAP- 72.89%, SDA-27.11%
In GE2011, 7 candidates polled 30%. Drop of 3 points. But they were already so low, not much space to go down.
Tanjong Pagar GRC (5): PAP-77.71%, SingFirst-22.29%
Jurong GRC (5):              PAP-79.28%, SingFirst-20.72%
Debut 2015. SingFirst average about 21.49% 
Chua Chu Kang GRC (4): PAP-76.89, PPP-23.11%
Debut GE2015

These smaller parties are polling less than 30%, which some feel is the baseline for hard-core anti-PAP voters. When even some of the virulent Anti-PAP will not vote for you, you have a insurmountable deficit of support and credibility. You either need a good new strategy and image, or you should just give up. Really.

This also applies to RP. Being the son of JBJ gets the door open for you (in 2011). After that, you still have to talk sense and make sense.

NSP, which before election was called, was riding on their reputation forged in GE2011 as being an "up and coming but have not arrived" party. Subsequently, they imploded with leadership changes, and strategic missteps, and an unrealistic perception of the electoral landscape and their role in it. Their election strategy was bankrupt of any fresh and pertinent ideas and their tactic was stale.

If GE2011 was the story of WP and how an opposition can make itself relevant and pertinent, GE2015 cautionary tale is illustrated by NSP's journey from near relevance, into oblivion.

SPP continues its downward slide into irrelevance, their defiant denialism (or obtuseness) notwithstanding.

SDP, which I had gave special mention, but with little real hope, managed to surprise with a new approach. I had written:
SDP and Chee no longer pursues controversy and wild accusations. But you can't win votes with "vote for me. We're not crazy anymore."
To be fair, that was not their rallying call. But, many people still remember the CSJ of old and wonder if the leopard really can change its shorts. Yes, he talked a good game, and politics are often more about image and illusion than substance.

But Steve Chia (NSP) learned the hard way that SG voters have long memories and when he sought to interdict his candidacy into a three way contest, the internet reminded him that they have not forgotten his "hobby".

Similarly, Chee Soon Juan's speeches were persuasive in content and well-crafted in style and presentation, but failed to persuade the voters (at least in Holland-Bt Timah) that he deserved a seat in Parliament. Perhaps they remembered the combative ideologue that was Chee and may still be Chee? Perhaps they still remember his betrayal of Chiam See Tong? The humble "Man-of-the-people" may well be an act.

Or even if the voters bought his spiel and were sold on his sincerity (including his retconning of the incident with Chiam), they thought that his approach was not right for Singapore?

Then of course the voters in the despondency of post-GE2015, decided to try matchmaking the rising Chee (and SDP) with the dominant Workers Party.

This was a comment online on the suggestion or possibility of WP and SDP working together:
A "marriage" is a union of two willing parties. SDP may want to marry into a good family, with a lot of "wealth", but what's in it for the "wealthy" partner (WP)? Is SDP "Sexy, Desirable Partner" or "Single, Desperate Parasite"?

WP has their own strategy and "road map" for their development.
Is SDP's strategy compatible?
Are the matchmakers (voters) considering these compatibility issues or are they like most "amateur matchmakers" just throwing two "singles" together and expecting "magic"?
And even if they are strategically compatible, the final deal-breaker or deal-maker is, do they trust each other.

I personally would not trust SDP (well, Chee specifically), but that's just me, and my opinion on this is irrelevant.

But it won't even get to this stage. WP's and SDP's strategies and objectives are not aligned at this point. Of if there is apparent alignment, it is superficial and immaterial. Or so broad as to be meaningless.

All (or almost all) the other opposition parties are parties of ego, charisma, and pride. Only WP has been strong enough and meritocratic enough to subsume the egos of their members to the strategic goals and needs of the party.

WP and SDP work together? Sure. Anything is possible. And politics make strange bedfellows.
I may be wrong, but Chee was a man of considerable ego, and it remains to be seen if he still is. In any case, WP is not pursuing a strategy of personality, but looking for team players. I do not get the impression that Chee is a team player. Or a follower.


Support level

The opposition support level for GE2015 was around 25% for many contests. WP's support level is higher (almost 40% reflecting perhaps a greater trust in their ability and competency.

The only other hopeful is SDP's Chee and Paul Tambyah. The team managed a better poll of 31%, but this is less than what the team polled in 2011 (without Chee and Tambyah). SDP saw a drop of 6 points from 2011, but this was better than the more than 10 point swing for most of the other opposition. Perhaps without Chee and Tambyah, SDP would also have been swept aside by the 10 point swing to PAP? So Chee and Tambyah had a >3 point mitigation effect?

Other than WP an SDP, the other parties were all polling under 30%. This is below the 30% support level that is generally assured for opposition parties.

Or has the support level dropped?

I think the SG voter is intelligent and complex. And they have been spoiled by PAP, and also WP. It is no longer enough to hitch your ego to a star and throw your hat into the ring.

The SG voter asks, "are you a credible alternative to the PAP? Maybe not now, maybe not even in 10 years, but are you here for the good, or just a fly-by-night, in-it-for-the-fame-and-glory candidate? We're not playing ducks and drakes. This is for the country. This is for the future."

JBJ had credibility. Chiam had it. Low has it.

I can't say as I see Tan Jee Say having it. Or Desmond Lim. Or Goh Meng Seng. Or Kenneth J.

Chee Soon Juan needs to rehabilitate his image. But short of travelling back in time, this is a matter of whether the voters will forget and let him forget. Or the PAP.


Credibility and Relevance

Opposition Characters should be aware by now that the Singaporean voters are behind them. All the way. Way way way behind. Where it is safe.

If Roy wants to fight for CPF money to be returned, he will always have vocal supporters. Who doesn't want money?

If Tan Jee Say wants Singaporeans to be First, Singaporeans will be first... in line to listen to him.

If Chee Soon Juan needs to sell books to feed his family, Singaporeans are very kind hearted one.

But when it comes to voting, the 9-day Campaigning period is a waste of time. Singaporeans already decided how they would be voting one month before that.



Conclusion: The smaller parties are still irrelevant, if not even more so.

WP is the only (barely) credible alternative, but their role is not shadow government or government-in-waiting. Their role is to be a scarecrow or whip to crack in front of the PAP if the PAP falls into the same bad habits.

SDP may still define their role in the future, but Chee carries with him considerable political baggage which the voters and the PAP is unlikely to let him forget. If he has a way to cut away those baggage, he might start afresh. Or if voters decide that Chee 2.0 is different from the old Chee and harping on his past indiscretions is just bullying by pundits and PAP, then he might have a chance.

But hope is not a strategy.

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