It is the quaintly anachronistic practice from the 1960s and 70s where a lorry (or a pickup) festooned with the political party's flag, loudspeakers, and a recording (perhaps an MP3 file, but I would not be surprised if it were an antique tape recorder. Not a cassette tape mind you. That would be too modern. No. A spool to spool tape recorder. Nothing beats old school, man!).
The vehicle makes its rounds through the estate blasting its message over the loudspeakers. It is the PAP candidates rehashing the accomplishments of the team, and extolling the virtues and promises of the PAP.
Living on the highest floor, the message was a bit garbled.
"The PAP.... many years... achieved... promises.... good life... future.... Vote for PAP!"
This was in the afternoon. Of a workday. And it got me wondering.
Who is around at this time of the day to listen to this? You can only make it so loud before it is unbearably loud on the ground floor, and if it is not loud enough, it would be barely intelligible past the 12th floor. Have you heard of the internet, the radio, blogs, websites, and TV?
Oh you have? And you have blocked most if not all of them?
Nothing assures me the PAP is the party to bring us to the future than their commitment to kicking it old school with that loudhailer truck.
(You can almost imagine a young Lee Kuan Yew on the back of that pickup speaking directly to your kampong neighbours with a microphone. )
But really, the only people you would be reaching out to at that time of the day are retirees, housewives (or whatever is the politically correct term for women who are at home at that time of the day), the unemployed (who apparently do not exist in Singapore), and shift workers desperately trying to get some sleep before their shift starts in a few hours, except for the BLARDY STUPID LORRY WITH A LOUDSPEAKER!
And you cannot have too complicated a message with a roving lorry.
"WE HAVE UPGRADED THE HAWKER centre and wet market and we will soon be..."
Yes. That helps a lot.
No. We are not going to run after the lorry to find out what you will soon be doing. I'm sure it will be back, and maybe we will catch the continuation of that message.
But you must applaud the PAP for continuing to provide jobs for the drivers of those vehicles.
Unless those are volunteers.
"Hi! I'd like to volunteer to help the PAP for this election."
"Can you drive?"
"Good. See that pickup?"
"The one with all the PAP flags?"
"Yes. Here is the route map and coverage. Drive around with the loudspeakers on, at no more than 25 km per hour from 8 am to 5 pm. OK?"
"Fuck," the would-be volunteer thinks.
And what's with rallies?
Ok, they are entertaining. But they are preaching to the converted.
People don't go to rallies to change their minds. They go to reinforce their views, to find vindication for their frustration, to have someone articulate their fears and concerns.
If you went to a rally and had your mind changed, please share.
"I had always admired Chee Soon Juan. I thought his views had conviction and principles. Then I went to his rally. He's a BLARDY BANANA! JIAK KANGTANG one! Lidat how to vote for him?"No. Not exactly what I meant.
If you've been to a rally, why did you go? Did you go to one which you disagreed with, or one which you wanted to hear more about? That is, you were already inclined to support that party or candidate. If that party or candidate were standing in your constituency and you got to vote for them.
Rallies are about emotions. The best rallies tap into your most primal instincts and grabs them by the balls. "Wa si teochew nang!" will always resonate more deeply than "Towards a First World Parliament".
Unfortunately, election surveys are illegal in Singapore. Which is another issue.
I would like to see a survey of voters before Nomination Day and the eve of Cooling Off day. The prevailing wisdom is that there are 40% steadfast PAP supporters, and 30% confirmed Anti-PAP, and 30% Swing voters.
This is important.
It means that for 70% of voters, the election campaigning is irrelevant. How they would vote has already been determined. One might even say, set in stone.
The steadfast PAP supporter would have heard all the criticisms of the PAP throughout the years, and seen the PAP candidates make a fool of themselves in the media and on stage. But they understand one thing: They are not voting for entertainers, idealist, or ideologues. They are voting for PAP, who has delivered, and who are competent, and can give Singaporeans security. In fact, if they could, they would rather not vote. Die-hard PAP supporters are of two stripes. One is the apolitical and would never be interested in politics. As far as they are concerned. PAP is a good government, they have delivered, and they have made the lives of the voters good and easy. Politics are for those who jiak pah kah eng. The other are "full-circle" PAP supporters. They were idealistic in their youth, wanted democracy for Singapore, believed SG would be better off in the long run with a more balanced parliament (with more opposition)... and then may have experienced life overseas. And then realised that Democracy isn't all that it is cracked up to be.
The Anti-PAP voter are against the PAP because they hear all the criticisms of the PAP (the same ones the PAP supporters might have heard), and realised that there is truth in those criticisms, and there is injustice to be righted. And Ideals of Democracy to be championed. And the source of that cumulative injustice is the PAP, and the solution then, is the removal of the PAP from power. No other solution is acceptable. There are some Anti-PAP voters who may be anti-PAP for other reasons, which may be grounded in past incidents. But most are motivated by principles and ideals, and the conviction that the ends do not justify the means, that means are as important as ends.
The Swing voters are not so easily characterised and do not have a common coalescing principle around which they are clustered. They range from Weak PAP supporters to Undecided to Weak Opposition supporters.
Some may be opportunists and extortionists. They like that the PAP has to "buy" their votes. They like that elections come with goodies, and an election budget. And they intend to milk elections for all they can get. The other name for this group, is the populists.
Some, or many may be emerging idealists or pragmatic idealists. They agree that PAP is the best to lead Singapore, but they may feel that PAP is too dominant, and they feel that it would be good for democracy if Singapore had a more viable and visible opposition. But they are not sure if they should support the opposition, and they do differentiate between opposition parties. So they are not anti-PAP voters who will vote any party as long as it is not PAP. They assess if the opposition party is credible, democratic, meritocratic, and good for Singapore.
Some others may feel that the PAP has lost its way, lost its core values, and lost the support of the people. But in this group you may actually have two diametrically opposed groups. One group feels that the PAP has gone soft. Policies are now too liberal, too "welfarish", and this is bad for Singapore. These are the traditionalists. The opposite group feels that the PAP is too hard, is continuing to apply principles and approaches that worked in the past, but are no longer relevant today. And this is why Singapore is having so much trouble today - because the PAP is not responding to changing times and needs of the people. These may be called the progressives.
There may be more sub-groups, but these are the three (or four) main ones that I see (or read about).
If we accept that changing the minds of 70% of the voters is almost impossible, then the election is about the remaining 30%.
If these 30% are not homogenous, and there are sub-groups with different concerns, then there may be no single solution to win over these swing voters.
And what is the composition of the swing voters? How many are extortionists, idealists, traditionalists and progressives?
Well from the fact that "carrots" failed to win over opposition seats, we could conclude that extortionists probably account for less than 10%. It also means that carrots alone, will not help PAP retake or hold GRCs or SMCs.
Which they sort of have learnt.
Traditionalists and Progressives are two sides of the same coin. Policies that will make one happy, will make the other unhappy. Even if they are not exactly equal, they are sufficient counters to each other to render any attempt to win this subgroup a "two steps forward, one step back" dance. It would be hard to win with this strategy.
Which leaves us with the emerging idealist subgroup.
Whom the PAP has not really courted or whose concerns the PAP has not addressed.
And who gets more indignant or mortified every time PAP is seen to be bullying, or being unfair, or trying "to fix the opposition".
The emergent Idealist believes in the principle of democracy, but even so, individuals in this group may vary quite a bit in the content of their ideals. Unlike the Anti-PAP voter, they do not believe that Democracy is an absolute good. It is at best relative, and it must serve the needs of the people. But to what extent are democracy and the principles of democracy applicable to the situation in Singapore. Is Freedom of Expression an unadulterated and absolute good?
But generally, they try to balance pragmatism with idealism, and fairness is their guiding star.
So if the PAP wants to win these swing voters over they will need to be seen as fair.
But what we need to see are before and after survey results - how many voters changed their mind over the course of the campaign? And what led to them changing their minds.
I suspect about 70% of the voters remain with their original choices.
Of the 30% Swing Voters, some may change their minds. I doubt it was because of the loudhailer pickups doing their rounds in the estate.
Or the Rallies.
Or the sniping in the media.
Or I could be wrong.
[Update: There WAS a survey of voters before the election! And it found that 70% of voters would have voted PAP one month before the election was even called!
This could be coincidence.
The "result" might have been reversed engineered.
But if it is true, then it supports my sneaking suspicion that electioneering and campaigning are a waste of time.
Hope there is another survey before the next election. See if they can be right again.]