Saturday, 30 April 2011

The nature of Rallies

The WP Hougang Rally (Thurs night) reminded me of the crowd at Yio Chu Kang Stadium in 1997. That was another huge turnout for the opposition. The crowd overflowed to the MRT station that night. The PAP rally at the same location that GE - dismal. You had space to picnic, kick a ball, etc. 

The rumour was the PAP had to bus supporters in to make up the numbers. Frankly I think the PAP should save their money and just do away with their rallies. Or maybe just have funfairs. And they should be self-deprecating about it. Call it the "PAP supporters rally funfair cum possible farewell party". PAP candidate should just dialogue with the fair-goers and incumbents should just say things like "I really enjoyed working with you these last few years. I hope I will be able to work with you again, but if not I thank you for your support." And maybe have Q&A with small groups of people.

The reason people don't go to PAP rallies is because 1) they are boring, and 2) they have nothing new to say. We've been listening to them for 5 years. We know their explanations and reasoning and rationale, and we either accept and agree, or we don't.

The reason why we go to opposition rallies is because 1) they are exciting, 2) they scold the PAP (on our behalf), and and 3) they come up with new ideas (sometimes). They express what we feel, and they validate our selfish concerns at worst, or our residual idealism at best.

Rallies preach to the converted.

The rousing speeches are more flash than substance. They tap upon the zeitgeist of shared experience, shared values, and shared beliefs. They neither attempt to justify their conclusions, nor do they make a case for their accusations, because the people already know the truth. The speakers just build upon this shared "truth" and seek endorsement of their candidacy, just as the audience seek endorsement and validation of their frustrations.

Those who would vote opposition were decided before they went for the rallies, and those who would not, would not have been swayed by the rallies.

As for those who would vote PAP, they would have decided a long time ago, and they would be busy getting on with their lives. Why would they waste time at a PAP rally? The whole point of voting PAP is so that the PAP can take care of the problems and people can get on with their lives.

So the 1997 election results, despite the huge turnouts at opposition rallies, was a loss of 2 opposition seats. Opposition MPs voted into parliament fell from 4 to just two. Hope of a better showing as a follow through from the 1991 election where an unprecedented 4 opposition MPs were elected were dashed. Early predictions of 5, 6 or even more opposition, were proven overly optimistic. The opposition movement had a setback.

I do hope that there is not another setback for the opposition, but I fear Low's double-down bet is highly risky. He has acknowledged as much.

That said, having heard Yaw Shin Leong, he seems to have a fair chance of holding Hougang for WP.

But don't be surprised after the dust has settled that PAP is back in power and there are no more than a handful of opposition voted in. If at all.

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