Wednesday, 15 July 2015

PAP's strategy revisited (or why I am not PAP election strategist).

Previously, I had suggested that PAP should pull out of Opposition-held wards unless they have a candidate (or candidates) who are passionate about that SMC/GRC and believe that they can win the ground.

Now, PAP  has once again proven that they are the world's worst politicians.  Take the recent statement about PAP's strategy in Aljunied:
“Why would we want to field somebody that we know has a higher chance of being rejected and deprive ourselves of an office-holder?”
In case you are a PAP politician, let me explain what that translates to for the Aljunied Electorate

1) "We're not wasting our Ministerial talents on your ward."
2) "We don't think we will have a good chance to win anyway."
3) "So you will get people we can afford to lose, or don't feel too bad about losing or not having as MPs. Why yes, you can call them 'losers'."
4) "And yes, what is most important to the PAP is OUR plans and how we can use the electoral process to get what WE want (potential office-holder)".

So if you are an Aljunied voter who is undecided or leaning towards the Opposition, would the above unintended message persuade you to change your mind?

The PAP has once again shown that when it comes to politics, they are guileless communicators. They say exactly what they think and they don't think about how they come across. (As Exhibit A, I present Tan Chuan Jin and his comment about "cardboard collectors").

And I still think the PAP should pull out of Aljunied, and give WP a chance to learn how to run a GRC.

Voters don't believe that the concerns raised by the government (PAP) on AHPETC management is as critical as the PAP claims.

The PAP should listen to the voters. PAP have put their case as to why AHPETC management is dangerous. Voters don't believe the PAP or think the PAP is just bullying or finding fault with AHPETC for political advantage (to win back AHPE).

Therefore to show that they are NOT doing it for political gains, the PAP should say that they will not  stand for elections in Aljunied, Hougang, and Punggol East.

They should announce this early.

Of course, they have already started trying to win back Aljunied. With their default "non-strategy" of "throwing everything they have and hope something sticks". OK, the only "strategic" thing they did was to not field those that they absolutely want to be sure would be voted in... and then they communicate that in the worst possible way.

Great job!

I like to shake things up and do things differently.

The AHPETC issue

Man, I could have a lot of fun with this.

First (if I were the PAP political strategist), I would have MND give a FINAL statement summarising the issues (in simple to understand language lah!) regarding the AHPTEC financial management/ reporting and transparency issue. All the facts and documents relating to the issue will be posted online for public scrutiny. Then MND will announce that since the Court has ruled that MND has no right to legal action against AHPETC, MND will abide by the court's decision and study their options for now. They are therefore suspending further action against AHPETC indefinitely.

Second, I would have PAP leadership announce that as the voters believe that PAP is politicising this issue, PAP have decided NOT to challenge WP in Aljunied, Hougang, and Punggol East for two reasons. One, the voters do not believe that the problem is so bad that it requires remedial actions (or voting the PAP back in). And, two, the accounts and finances are so bad, PAP does not want the task of cleaning up after WP, should the PAP win. (No, the PAP should NOT say this. This is just for this blog post. Hey! Who says only the PAP get to say stupid things?)

So if PAP is not challenging WP in AHPE, WP walk over lah?

Sure. If the other opposition don't try to challenge WP.

No other opposition have started to campaign in those WP-held wards and are likely to be unprepared to challenge the WP. But do you think this will stop Goh Meng Seng? Do you think Kenneth Jeyaratnm's Ego will be too small to let him try? Of course not! Do you think Tan Jee Say will think so little of himself that he does not believe he can win Aljunied or Punggol East, or Hougang? Tan Jee Say may well challenge for Hougang. After all, he is "teo chew nang"! (cite needed).

So it is unlikely that WP will get walk-overs. Likely they would have to fend off other opposition parties.

My assessment is, the other parties will have no chance. WP are like PAP in the way they establish their support base in a ward. Or voters don't give their hearts (or votes) so easily. But it will still mean that they will have to contend with opportunistic opposition parties (which is a redundancy. All opposition parties are opportunistic!)

The documents and facts put online by MND can now be used by the opposition parties to attack WP.  There is two possibilities. One is the other opposition parties do not attack WP on the FMSS and financial issues. If so, this is something for the PAP to learn - the facts are too complicated and is a non-issue for the voters. Or that is what the other opposition parties think. And the PAP should should acknowledge that opposition parties are (slightly) better (maybe?) at picking the issues and finding the angle that would be most pertinent to the voters.

The other possibility is that they do attack the WP on the very same issues. This would be good. It lends credence to the PAP's allegation of wrong-doing on the part of the WP. But of course the voters may see the other opposition party as merely being opportunistic. Again, perhaps the other party is better able to present the arguments to the voters in a more convincing manner. Something to learn.

In the unlikely event that WP gets walk-overs in one or more or all of their wards, it is also informative. It means that the other parties don't consider WP to be a pushover, it may also mean that there is some unity or at least discipline in the opposition parties, that even if the WP were "easier", for opposition unity, the other parties will not resort to undermining each other.

That is good to know.

The Message

And what would the PAP's message be, if they do not contest in the Lost Wards?

PAP, like an over-protective parent, does not seem to understand that sometimes you need to let go. Not every problem should be solved by the parent. You do your best to explain, but sometimes, lessons are best learned firsthand.

And sometimes it is more important to show that you respect the other's opinion than to show that you are more informed or more intelligent. So if the voters say no, you should respect their decision.

Acting like a "Saviour Parent", Over-parenting (ST, Jul 13, 2015) does no good for the voter, or for the opposition parties, or for Singapore's political maturity.
The typical "saviour parent" often tries to save the child by doing things for him and going out of his or her way to clear obstacles even before the child encounters them.
If you like, you can think of PAP and Opposition parties as two parents. One is the strict, prudent, careful, always does the reasonable thing parent, and the other is the fun-loving, slightly (or very) immature parent who regales you with stories of misadventures of a misspent youth, tell you age-inappropriate jokes, and let you try alcohol and cigarettes when the other parent (PAP) is not looking.

Of course, you'll like the fun-loving, cool parent. Who doesn't?

And if you are the "uncool" parent, the solution is NOT to try to be cool (it's just painful to watch), and NOT become even more strict (you are just going to push them further away). The answer is (from the "Saviour Parent" article):
Assure them of your support, let them grow and help them become confident about their abilities. We should "save" their self-worth and confidence by helping them become resilient...
So this is the message the PAP should be sending to residents of AHPE: We respect your wishes and your decision. Objectively, we do not believe we will win in AHPE. So we will take a step back. We are not abandoning AHPE. This is for the moment. This is the reality today, and we accept that. To try when we know that we will lose, is to delude ourselves, raise unrealistic hopes in our supporters, and throw suspicions on our motives when we critique the management of AHPETC. We do not want to let politics colour our concerns for AHPE. We can only state simply our concerns and leave it to the residents of AHPE to decide if our concerns are valid, are relevant, and are real. Even the courts say we have no right to pursue this. We accept the judgement of the court.

The Lessons

I think PAP's political strategist (position vacant) needs to re-read (or read) Sun Tze's Art of War for some basic strategies. And learn to win without fighting. And learn to read the lessons in the moves of the opposition.

If WP gets a walk-over, it means the other opposition parties are either more prudent, recognises that WP is as formidable as PAP (in those wards, at least), and are unified with WP in trying to dethrone the PAP.

If WP is challenged by the other parties, take note of which parties are challenging and which are not. Those who charged in are the deluded, ego-driven parties (I'm looking at you, KJ, GMS, TJS, and maybe CSJ, though I get the impression, that he has mellowed. A little. Just a little.) Actually, you know what? No need to take note of them. They don't matter.

Let's just say that given the state of the opposition now, I would be very surprised if no other party challenges WP if PAP pulls out of AHPE.

In addition to declaring that PAP would stay out of AHPE for the next GE, they should also state that PAP would gauge the voters receptiveness in future elections if PAP were to lose in other wards. That is, PAP may accept that they are not wanted and retreat from where they are not wanted. This would be in the best interest of democracy and political maturity. And of course in the best interest of the PAP in terms of focusing their resources in those vulnerable wards.

PAP's Strategy for the New Normal

After GE2011, PAP recognised that politics in Singapore had become "normal". Gone were the days when PAP was the ONLY choice for the survival of Singapore. As we progressed out of the survival stage, options open up, and the electorate began to bargain with the PAP.

Finally, post 2006, real politics, ordinary politics returned to Singapore.

And what is "real politics" or "ordinary politics"? Post GE2011, there was mention of "the new normal". What is that?

It is that PAP is no longer the obvious (or only) choice, and has to fight for votes, and that some fights are very close fights which could go either way. The PAP still has strongholds (particularly in the west), and these may offer PAP a deep well of support that they can draw on. But they can no longer dominate as it had in the past with 100% of the seats in Parliament (pre-1981), or over 90% (Post-1981).

It is reasonable that their majority in parliament may well fall below 90%.

And PM Lee has accepted this reality, and has even helped this reality, but increasing the number of Single Member Constituencies (SMC), and reducing the size of the Group Representative Constituencies (GRC).

So with PM Lee helping normal politics and democracy along (albeit at a pace PAP is comfortable with), what would the PAP strategy be for the new normal?

Absolute Domination (100% of parliament) is not possible, and has not been seen since 1981.

Overwhelming (90%+) domination of parliament is increasingly questionable. But not unimaginable. I suspect that as with things in real life, there is an ebb and flow in events. One GE, there is a flow. The next GE, there will be a pushback and an ebb.

Maybe in the next GE, PAP can still hold onto 90% of the seats in parliament. But even if it could, it would likely be a lull in the momentum.

Eventually, the PAP will decide that their fallback position or support level, will be the 2/3 majority level where they will still have the majority to push through constitutional changes.

Which means that the PAP should get used to about 25 opposition MPs. And learn to work with 60+ PAP MPs and try to find (or seed) Ministerial caliber MPs within those 60.

And that should be PAP's strategic objective: Win enough seats to form the majority or even super majority government so they can pass bills and even change the constitution if necessary. They don't have to fight every ward or fight to regain every ward they lose.

Instead of hovering over lost wards and letting the opposition turn their "strategy" against them ("Vote Opposition and get TWO MPs - the Opposition MP you voted in, and the PAP "MP" who will hang around and try to change your mind."), the PAP could "double-up" an elected MP, with a "shadow" MP to help out, and learn the ropes.

Eventually, the "shadow MP" can take over the old ward, while the elected MP is moved to try to take another ward. Or vice versa.

The problem, for the PAP (and any party that forms the government) is that electable MPs and Ministerial caliber MPs may be different animals. Democracy is a popularity contest. Selecting Ministers should be meritocratic. The problem is, that which is meritorious is not that which will get you the job.
... democracy is a popularity contest. Meritocracy is selection by ability. The most able person may not be the most popular. Or may not know how to be popular. Thus if we want to select leaders based on ability, popularity does not correlate with ability.
Put another way, the abilities necessary for the job may not be the ability that wins you that job. Political candidates campaign on popularity, and appeal. But having won the office, their ability to perform the task has little to do with their popularity, or their appeal.
So that will be PAP's strategic problem or objective - balancing a Government that Represents, with a Government that Governs. With about 60 MPs.

1 comment:

The said...

5) We are giving up Aljunied without a fight - sorry folks - you have another 5 years to repent.