Friday, 11 May 2018

The politics of Tsunami

So Barisan Nasional's (BN) rule has ended.

Historic.

A "Malay Tsunami" was prodicted. But what emerged was a "Tsunami Rakyat".

I have NO idea what that means connotatively (yes, I know it literally means "citizen's tsunami" or "people's tsunami"). People like to coin phrases and throw them around like it means anything.

And people also like to look at events and wonder, "is it Singapore's turn next?"

Is it?

That's an interesting question!



The Second Coming

Mahathir leaping back into the breach to, as he says, "correct the worst mistake of his life" - so that his not-so-worst (?) mistake can take over, is personal and unique to Dr M.

Unknown to Dr M (or maybe he knows), his main task is to survive long enough for Anwar to be able to stand in a By-election, get elected, and wait for Dr M to... "step down" so Anwar can take over. Also, you may have heard, "politics make strange bedfellows". Dr M jailed Anwar for sodomy. Now he is in bed with... a sodomiser. Kinda apt. Or you have to admire Dr M commitment to his country.

But I digress. 

How much of factor was Dr M in the ouster of BN & Najib?

Let's be generous and say, he was a critical factor. If he had not had this Second Coming, Malaysians would not have dared rejected BN!

(I don't believe this to be true, but of the sake of this conjecture, we will give him the benefit of the doubt. Surely he is a major media focus right now.)

So, this Tsunami Rakyat happened because Dr M jumped into the pool. (Not implying that Dr M is fat. Just that his ego is YUGE!)

So can this tsunami hit Singapore? Different pool. Need a different person to jump into the pool to cause a tsunami.

Problem.

LKY is dead.

You expect Goh Chok Tong to be as big?

No?

Maybe you are hoping Tan Cheng Bock will step up? 

It would make a good story - thwarted at one Presidential Election, denied an opportunity at the second, TCB returns to challenge the PAP. 

But there is a world of difference between being president (which does not require a team), and being PM which requires one to head a party.

It would make a good story. But it needs a few more players. Quite a few more.


The Turning Tide

BN lost the popular vote, but still had a constitutional majority in 2013. But it had lost the super-majority in 2008. And it has been a downward trend since then.

Until now it is out of power.

This was not a "tsunami". This was a turning of the tide that started as far back at 2008, when BN won 140 seats (down from 198), and 133 seats in 2013, and now 79 seats.

So is the tide turning in Singapore?

Well, in 2011, for the first time the PAP lost a GRC to the opposition. And then an SMC in a by-election, and failed to capture Hougang from the WP. PAP's vote share fell to 60% in 2011 - down 6.5 percentage points from 2006, and down 15 points from 2001.

But then in 2015, it's vote share went up almost 10 percentage points. And it recaptured Punggol East SMC.

If the tide is turning, it is not showing clear signs, ebbing and flowing.

And the PAP has NOT lost the supermajority in parliament.

If the tide is turning, it is turning slowly. Very slowly.

Will the turning tide wash out the PAP in the next election? At 69%, that would mean a 20 percentage point swing for the PAP to lose the popular vote like the BN did in 2013.

Not likely. Not without good reasons.


Gimme a Reason

So what made the voters angry? Was it the Mongolian model murder? Was it the 1MDB scandal? Was it the awarding of mega-project contracts to foreign companies (China)? The "selling" of Malaysia to China?


The most germane issues were those that affected the voters and their livelihood directly - GST, fuel subsidies, housing, and wages.
Bread-and-butter worries had weighed heavily on voters' minds, incomes were lagging the cost of living, and housing affordability had worsened, including in Johor.
Some voters (mainly urban voters) were also concerned about the corruption and the 1MDB scandal.
While differences emerged between urban and rural constituencies about how much corruption was a concern - and urban voters felt this more keenly
So what are Singaporeans angry about? What are the critical issues that voters want changed?

Most of the issues have been dealt with or are being dealt with. The unhappiness was manifested at GE 2011, when the voters swung against the PAP. The PAP in turn responded to the voter's dissatisfaction since 2011.

They implemented policies to address housing pain, severely curtailed foreign labour, and worked to improve public transit.

The political and policy response was sufficient for the PAP to win back 10 percentage point of support in 2015.

With 70% support, and continued efforts to improve the lives of Singaporeans and the transport system, even if some Singaporeans are still dissatisfied with the efforts, a swing back would not be as drastic as 20 points to lose the PAP the popular vote.

Then there is the impending GST increase. Would that make Singaporeans angry enough to vote against the PAP?

Say, "yes" for some Singaporeans. As many as 20% of voters? I doubt it.

Ok, so Singapore does not have scandals like the 1MDB, or the Mongolian model murder. But we do have the 38 Oxley Road issue. And the Keppel O&M corruption scandal. Which few people understand. And both these cases don't affect the average Singaporean.

Singaporeans are more concerned about train breakdowns, the loss of Uber, and all those damn bike sharing bikes strewn all over the place! And the train problem is being dealt with. Uber/Grab is a first world problem, and the bikes, well, I would be most interested in reading anyone's theory as to how that could make the PAP lose an election.


Fifty Shades More

The Malaysian GE this year and the loss of support for the BN is also remarkable for one thing - the possible death of race politics. Or race-based politics. BN's hold onto power is based on UMNO (the lead component party of the BN coalition warning the Malay voter than if UMNO is out of power, there would be no voice for the Malay, no one to defend Malay rights.

BN implicitly, if not explicitly, propounds the concept of Ketuanan Melayu or Malay Preeminence. You've heard Trump harp on "America First"? Well, this is like "Malays First". The BN coalition is made up of various race-based political parties and this is supposed to ensure that the major races are represented, and united in the BN coalition. Thus, BN is the ideal coalition, hypothetically, and so Malaysian should vote for them.

Until they didn't.

Singapore didn't like the race-based, parochial "Malay Malaysia" 50 shades of racism and left the federation in 1965.

Malaysians have rejected race-based parochialism today.

Will this happen in Singapore too?

This (rejecting race-based politics) already happened... fifty years ago.

Not saying that Malaysia is backwards or slow. But we had that "epiphany"... or LKY did... 50 years ago.

It was a rude awakening.


So will we have a Tsunami Rakyat in Singapore in the next GE?

Looking at all the factors above, VERY UNLIKELY.

But I could be wrong.

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