Saturday 12 September 2015

GE 2015 aftermath: Whither the Opposition Manifest Destiny?

You could say it was 9/11 for the opposition.

Many were surprised by the election results. Shellshocked even.

I believe even PAP wasn't expecting such a victory.

How did the party win so big?

Didn't you see the tens of thousands of people at WP's rallies?

Wasn't this supposed to be Dr Chee Soon Juan's big political comeback?

What the hell happened?

Was it the LKY effect? The SG50 effect? The Pioneer Generation Package effect? The gerrymandering effect? All of the above?

If you ask me, PAP won because, strange as it may sound, the ruling party was the underdog in this election.

And being the underdog, PAP came out swinging.

Unlike the 2011 election, where (apart from LKY's "repent" remark) the defining PAP moment was PM Lee saying the Government should apologise for its mistakes, there was nothing apologetic about PAP's campaign this time.

It was an all-out attack on WP with the AHPETC issue, forcing WP to play defence.

The overly complicated details of the AHPETC issue didn't matter (although it was to PAP's advantage that they were overly complicated).

All that mattered was AHPETC became the issue of GE 2015, allowing little room for other issues, like CPF and the whole foreigner thing, which many had long assumed would be PAP's downfall, to gain traction.

Because of WP winning a GRC for the first time in 2011 and Punggol East in the 2013 by-election, there had appeared to be a trend of the opposition gaining more seats with each poll.

This gave rise to what I call the Opposition Manifest Destiny, a sense that the expansion of the opposition in Singapore is righteous and inevitable.

In other words, the opposition are on the right side of history and PAP is not.

This was further reinforced by social media, the huge turn-outs for WP rallies and the resurgence of Dr Chee.

It gave the opposition and their supporters not just hope but confidence that they were really going to make a difference this time - and it turned PAP into the unlikely underdog.

Observing this, a moderate voter might be thinking: "I want more opposition in parliament but just a bit at a time. I don't want them to suddenly take over. Since everyone else is voting for opposition, I'm going to vote PAP."

Is that voting "wisely"? Depends on who you ask.

The result: PAP won almost 70 per cent of the popular votes compared to 60 per cent in 2011.

And the party got Punggol East back.

The opposition didn't know what hit them.

As Mr Tan Jee Say of the Singaporeans First party said: “The results are not consistent with the feedback we’ve heard from the ground, and these results are even worse than what we had expected.”

So is the Opposition Manifest Destiny dead?

Or merely delayed?

At least WP still has Aljunied and Hougang to work towards that destiny.

I just hope that during the next election, when you see a massive crowd at a rally, remember that that's all it is, a massive crowd at a rally. There are also massive crowds at K-pop concerts. It's not votes.

And please, nobody says SG100 again until 2065.


I just had a heated discussion with a colleague about the AHPETC issue.

He is of the opinion that PAP made a mistake by attacking WP on the issue because it turned off voters who could've helped PAP win back Aljunied. He believes that PAP realised the mistake and tried to drop the issue, but WP wouldn't let it.

I have no opinion whether the AHPETC issue helped or hurt PAP's chances of winning back Aljunied, but it was less important for PAP to win back Aljunied than to not lose any more seats. And PAP accomplished the latter, and then some.

But my colleague remains convinced that PAP's attack on WP over AHPETC was a strategic mistake. I agreed to disagree.