Posts Tagged ‘by-election’

The effect of this by-election

In News Reports, Politics on January 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm

There are only two things that will get ordinary Singaporeans to cheer – and that’s when Singapore wins a significant soccer match and when the Opposition wins an election. And so it was… just now. And I am not even talking about those at the counting centre or those who are die-hard supporters of the hammer. I gather it was quite noisy in Hougang.

Truth to tell, I thought the PAP would win. So much had been made of local issues – and if the constituents really thought that way, they would plump for the person who had the backing of the Government. This was also not Hougang, but a PAP ward for what it seems forever and ex-MP Michael Palmer was said to have been pretty good at working the ground. But it seems the voters thought: a) The WP can do the job in the ward as well too b) The PAP deserves a “slap” c) Singapore needs a plural Government d) We remember Lee Li Lian; we don’t know Koh Poh Koon e) Those national packages will be delivered anyway however we vote.

Any one of the five or a combination?

Now I suppose much will be made of the by-election “effect”. That the people want the PAP in power, but a by-election was a good chance to put in a new voice. The WP campaigned that way although I thought that it was only at its final rally that it got its act together to push the PAP back on the defensive. I thought it should have used its First World Parliament slogan. I thought it should have taken aim at AIMgate earlier in the campaign.

In fact, I thought the “hammering” that the WP got, at least online and from certain opposition quarters, for being so “conciliatory” towards the G – telling people that the policies need to mature and that it sometimes works with the G behind close doors, would not do it good. I thought Ms Lee was a bit of a damp squib, who would counteract the strong support from the WP leadership. I wondered if if those jibes about the WP being “arrogant” would work.

On all fronts, I thought wrong. And I congratulate the WP.

The BE result showed that voters considered the WP the dominant opposition party. A multi-cornered fight diluting the opposition vote? Nah. The disarray among the opposition ranks turning voters to the PAP side. No too. Now, what if the Singapore Democratic Party contested? How would the vote go? I almost wish it did, just so to hear from the voters on how they rate the SDP. My heart, though, really goes out to Singapore Democratic Alliance’s Desmond Lim. Just half a per cent, even less than the 4 per cent the last time round.

So what now? DPM Teo Chee Hean, anchor minister in that part of Singapore, looked so drawn and haggard. Both he and the PM did the courteous thing, thanking supporters and congratulating the victors. The voters have made their choice, they said. I was expecting something more…”and they would have to live with it…”…But no. I don’t know how Dr Koh feels. He must have realised it was risky never mind the Punggol boy- made – good tag. And never mind what I think was a tight campaign by the PAP, with quick counters after WP rallies and no mis-thought retorts and mis-timed attacks. I say he is a brave man. The thing is, the PAP says he will be fielded in future elections. And people will remember if he is NOT fielded in Punggol East again but in a safe GRC.

The PM wants attention back on national issues. Yes. The BE is out of the way. We should get back to national issues. Now with a bigger presence in Parliament, WP will have to live up to its words and act as a check. Or show the “value of political competition”, as Sylvia Lim said. Even if the WP does not have its own transport masterplan or marriage and parenthood package, the hope is that it will critique thoroughly those policies that have been just announced. Also, that it will get to the bottom of AIMgate – which it had provoked. In my view, it should come up with its own proposal on the “fundamental nature” of town councils, which is being studied by the National Development ministry. This it should do, now that it has even more town councils under its charge.

Anyway, the WP seems to have planned ahead, announcing date and venue of Ms Lee’s first Meet-the-People session. It is looking way ahead too, introducing four new faces (almost PAP-like I must say) at its last rally. It looks good to stay ahead of the rest of the opposition pack, although I am sure there will be some debate on whether olive branches should be held out to the other political parties.

The more difficult “thinking” will have to be done within the PAP though. It cannot simply content itself that this was just a by-election, and an opposition win was to be expected. I doubt that it will be complacent. I wonder now what new strategy will be formulated, whether in Parliament or in image. Its much vaunted “new normal” after the last GE doesn’t seem to have sunk in. Will it by the next GE? Or not at all. If so, the by-election effect might well sweep the general election.

You know what? There is someone I wish we could hear from. Former PM Lee Kuan Yew. What is he thinking I wonder. That the vote of the people is a terrible thing, as he once said?


Clever tactics

In News Reports, Politics on January 23, 2013 at 12:02 am

Reading the news reports on the by-election, it seems Workers’ Party’s Low Thia Khiang is in a bit of a fix. I had wondered why he chose to “thank’’ PM Lee Hsien Loong for his comments over the weekend that the WP hadn’t been able to make much headway in Parliament with its own policy proposals.

At last night’s rally, he clarified that it was because the PM had reminded “all of us that the Workers’ Party is still not large enough to have the resources to make alternative policies’’.
“In the Westminster parliamentary system, an alternative government must be complete with a shadow cabinet and ample resources for policy research to verify and propose alternative policies. Currently, we have a small group of professionals and academics working behind the scenes to help MPs scrutinise government policies. But expecting a party with 6 elected MPs to form an alternative government is premature and unrealistic.’’

So that’s why you need one more WP member in Parliament, he reasoned. Clever twist.

The PAP seems intent on making sure everyone knows that the WP “got no ideas’’, much less the ability to form a government. But the second part about being in Parliament is about raising relevant questions. Mr Low cited his MPs who spoke up and on what issues. But in this instance, the WP will be better off giving statistics of PAP MPs who did not speak or made only minimal contributions in Parliament in the check-and-balance role. And the proportion (not number) of questions and interventions WP made in Parliament compared to the much more sizeable PAP.

If there is someone Mr Low should thank, methinks its SDA’s Desmond Lim who elevated WP to a “dominant’’ party in his self-styled online rally. He spoke about how there were only “two’’ voices in Parliament. (Gosh! I would have thought that in a shouting match, the WP would be drowned out by the PAP chorus). Of course, Mr Lim didn’t mean it to be complimentary. It was more like the WP was singing at the same pitch as the PAP (that’s my interpretation, btw) and not performing the “checking’’ function.

Seems a lot of firepower is being directed at the WP. Ex-members are speaking up online about past squabbles etc. Mr Low has had to go on the defensive and rebut charges of being “arrogant’’. Odd, I thought that was a label more commonly attached to the PAP.

You have got to admire the PAP in this regard. Unless it had all its MPs sign some binding non-disclosure contract, its ex-MPs generally stay silent – and even run PAP companies. They help out in party HQ or in other ways on the ground. They don’t deride the party. If they do, they go the whole hog – and run for President!!! (Sorry, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, couldn’t resist it)

The PAP also seems to have a “tighter’’ campaign, going with “the man with a plan’’ when it comments on the BE. It’s letting its “national’’ campaign be represented in the announcements on train expansion, property and baby boosters . Clever people.

Staying safe in Punggol East

In News Reports, Politics on January 22, 2013 at 7:18 am

First, a confession. I am relying mainly on MSM news reports and my FB feeds to get news of the by-election. I read so much about the candidates offering practically their lives to get elected. I know so much about their backgrounds. I know what they want to do for those lucky Punggol East people. I suppose this is what a by-election is about.

But I wonder about why no one is talking about the big stuff or impending big stuff. I don’t mean the usual complaints about high transport, health and housing costs but the stuff that people are talking about and want to hear about. And I don’t mean general stuff like whether we need more opposition voices in Parliament. (BTW, I thought SDA’s Desmond Lim paid a huge tribute to the Workers’ Party by calling it a dominant party. He wants to be the third voice in a two-voice Parliament. Diversity of views, I suppose.)

Anyway, here is my own list of “missing’’ issues:

a. Why is no one talking about AIM, that PAP-run company that does the town councils’ books? Is everyone waiting for the National Development ministry to finish its report – and then comment? Is it the worry about incomplete information which might get them into trouble? I know WP withdrew its motion and I praised the move. But you know, I think any political party can speak about the subject at a time of election – especially whether town councils are “political’’ associations. And give its own take about the “fundamental nature’’ of town councils which even the PM wants studied.

b. No one is really getting into Palmergate, at least not the way Yaw Shin Leong’s character was dissected in the Hougang BE. Maybe because he’s too popular with residents to be raised as an issue? Then what about the more general qualities expected of a political representative? I mean, the seat fell vacant because of his indiscretion. So how come there’s no comment on it?

c. The immigrant issue. I suppose more childcare centres, covered linkways and bus services are “safe’’ topics. But what about this nagging, niggling problem we have about the foreigners in our midst? Companies say they are suffering because of the squeeze on foreign labour, NGOs think that the G doesn’t treat foreign workers right. And some of the comments being heard are outright xenophobic or racist. We still need foriegners, never mind the $2billion Population package announced yesterday that won’t have us replacing ourselves any time soon. So where do the parties stand on the immigration issue? Too hot a topic?

d. Then there are the constitutional challenges coming up pretty soon, such as on the PM’s right to call or not call a by-election, which must surely be something parties can take a stand on? Or is it because they think they might run foul of the court? Surely, this is something that also falls within the political arena?

e. Now, there’s a row between pro-Section 377a and anti-Section 377a on the criminalisation of homosexual acts. I hope the politicians are not so busy campaigning that they do not notice the heightened tensions and some hysteria online. Religion is getting political. What a dangerous mix which I thought the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act was designed to separate…or am I wrong? Questions are coming up on freedom of expression – both pro-gay and anti-gay. Politicians are being courted to take sides. So many issues here …or is this considered too explosive a mix to bring to the public’s attention? Maybe, again, everyone is waiting again for the court to rule.

Anyway, that’s just my one cent worth. Maybe what the voters really really want to know is exactly when (give exact date please) Rivervale Plaza will be fully ready.

Partying in Punggol East

In News Reports, Politics on January 21, 2013 at 4:18 am

It’s been a busy political weekend. Hands have been shaken. Fliers distributed. Speeches made. Now, what can anyone make of this? Has there been a “joining of issues’’? Are there new promises/pledges? Is this a national or a local election?

It’s local.

That’s because every candidate is talking about making Punggol East a better place to live in. So, more childcare places, more bus services, one more coffeeshop, quicker completion of Rivervale Plaza. PAP’s Koh Poh Koon has also thrown in facilities for the elderly and a covered linkway. You would think those 30,000 voters are living in slums the way physical upgrading is being promised…

If the constituents really want those things, I guess they should vote for the person whose party is in power. Really. Let’s be frank. It’s the PAP which can get stuff done faster, simply because it holds the reins on everything and has the pushing power. Not to mention a grassroots network which remains intact whichever party represents the ward. This is the problem – or advantage – of BIG government.

The opposition has offered some carrots too, along the same lines as the PAP. But you know what? Quite a lot would depend on whether the G machinery would crank along with their wish list.

On the local front, what REALLY can the opposition promise? I suppose it will have to do with town council operations then. The Workers’ Party can at least say that it has the experience. So far, the Reform Party and SDA seems to be offering a portion of their MP allowance! But what can an opposition-run town council do that a PAP-run town council can’t or won’t? How different is the WP town council from the PAP town council – besides being behind in the collection of arrears? By the way, this “defect’’ can be viewed as being compassionate/kind or tardy/inefficient. I am not even touching AIM – in fact, no one is!

I suppose it’s tough now to assess how the PAP runs the Punggol East ward per se, since the town council covers a far bigger area than just Punggol East. But it would be good to know that the opposition has looked over its books and can offer some concrete suggestions knowing what sort of money or manpower the town council has.

Hmm…lower service and conservancy fees? More frequent cleaning of open spaces? More hiring of those within the constituency? Price checks on products/food being sold in the area? A subsidy for the elderly who cannot afford basic products? Tie-ups with NGOs and charities? Because the opposition is by definition not the Government, it should have on its side a whole bunch of supporting characters/organisations who are willing to lend a hand on the local front. I haven’t heard of any.

As an aside, this whole “who will harder for you’’ is getting quite funny. So the PAP wants the vote so the WP will work harder; and vice versa. Then there is the “we will work hard for you anyway, regardless of…’’ sort of campaign theme. I have got to say that on this “work harder’’ front, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat should know that you always need competition to spur you to do better. Ask any student.

Likewise, PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking about the by-election effect, talks about how constituents shouldn’t have this idea that they would have BOTH the PAP and an opposition politician working the ward if they went for the opposition. I suppose that was one of the original attractions of the by-election effect.

But I doubt that voters are thinking in those terms – of having two nannies. It’s more of having their cake and eating it – PAP in power, opposition in Parliament. Now, whether those 30,000 voters feel this way would depend on whether they think their ward would suffer “physically’’ if they went for the opposition. I haven’t heard any threats yet from the PAP about withdrawing services (Let me reiterate, I am not talking about AIM here)

Therefore, it’s also national.

And it’s getting pretty strange. You can see how far the Workers’ Party have come from the JBJ days. The Reform Party, helmed by JBJ’s son, is actually the old Workers’ Party. You have Low Thia Khiang practically speaking on the PAP Government’s behalf – exhorting the people to give the G time for policies to change and bear fruit, even as the WP keeps a close watch on it. I gather die-hard opposition supporters aren’t too happy with it. What WP thinks is a moderate, conciliatory stand is being taken as, well, “PAP lite’’.

Again, as I said in an earlier post, I wish the opposition would give its parliamentary record to the people. I am not even asking for a restatement of policy positions, but what it did in its “watcher’’ role. We need to know if they are effective watchdogs or just there to sit pretty. We’re not forgetting those former Singapore Democratic Party MPs of the past, who said nary a word and if they did, didn’t make much sense.

Anyway, the G has been rolling out stuff pretty quickly. Like an expanded rail network for which it hasn’t done any engineering studies – and therefore cannot tell you what it will cost. Then so many flats are coming up to woo people who want to own one plus cooling measures that no one is sure will work or not.

In the meantime, things are breaking down – the NEL stoppage on Nomination Day, the M1 cellphone system conking out… Not the G’s fault, but contributing to a certain sourness on the ground. Plus, the price of fish maw and abalone is ridiculous! How to celebrate Chinese New Year like that?

Anyway, Polling Day is Jan 26.

A lot can happen between now and then.

Going for class monitor

In News Reports, Politics on January 21, 2013 at 12:47 am

Here is a primary school student’s take on the by-election. Fictional primary school student. Fictional ok?! Gosh. You can’t be too careful these days about what you write…

Once upon a time, there were four students who were vying for the post of class monitor. All four were as different from each other as they can be. And boy, did they make sure that their classmates knew about that!

One boy, very clever boy, told about his past, including eating ikan kuning mashed with rice. He was a poor boy, son of a bus driver (you know…those people who are now among the lowest paid in the country?) Some of his classmates nodded, others who usually ate at McDonald’s wondered what he was talking about. He had plenty of supporters – most of them other class monitors, some teachers and even the school principal, who said the boy had the potential to be more than a class monitor. Maybe school prefect even.

The boy did not want to be embarrassed and told them not to come too near him. He was his own man/boy! He was KPK! But the school principal and teachers really wanted him to win, so they went around shaking his classmates’ hands, making little lightning strikes, careful not to be seen with him.
One nice thing about the boy was that he didn’t seem to mind the crap that people were throwing at him, making fun of his fondness for kway chap.

Another was a girl, very much an Ah Lian. She too had plenty of supporters. There were a few class monitors and her extended family who pitched in as well, accompanying her to the school and classroom, distributing blue umbrellas.

Her aunty said, hey, vote for a girl. Too many class monitors are boys. Her uncles and godfather said, why do you want that KPK to win? He’s the principal’s pet, the teachers’ favourite. What if the principal and teachers decide that they should extend school hours, have more detention classes, raise canteen prices? You think the boy is going to say no? Our Ah Lian will hammer them back!

The third person was a boy, son of a very famous class monitor who wanted to be school prefect and even teacher or principal. This boy, KJ s/o JBJ, was also very clever, especially with counting money. He had already clashed with the school principal once, about lending money to other people without proper permission.

When he talked, he sounded just like his late father. Like thunder. He really can’t stand the school principal and teachers. He doesn’t even like Ah Lian and her extended family. He’s even more upset now because some people in school (and maybe outside school) are threatening his family. The police told him they will investigate and be around when he has to address the school assembly.

You can tell who the fourth person in because he is always in neon green. Some of his classmates remember him vaguely. He and Ah Lian had both tried to curry favour with them a few years ago. But most of them decided to vote for that nice Eurasian boy. But then he got kicked out of school. The neon green guy goes round with students even younger than him, probably from kindergarten. He told the class he won’t address them at school assembly but to please go on Facebook and Twitter to talk to him.

Their classmates are both flattered and tired by the attention of so many people. They have decided not to go to the school canteen, which is never-endingly being upgraded, because there are so many people there, including news people who keep asking them about this and that.

They just want to study – and get As.

A political performance

In News Reports, Politics on January 20, 2013 at 12:38 am

Go buy The Sunday Times. If only to read Zuraidah Ibrahim’s piece on her experience covering elections in Singapore and what has or hasn’t changed. I love it when the veterans write, because they have institutional memory to draw upon and can give far greater context to events than a newbie reporter, however smart he or she is.

Those who are older and have followed politics over the years will recognise some of what she wrote, like former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s assertion that opposition-run town councils will lead to your rubbish chutes being clogged (I haven’t heard of this happening yet).

Or what he would have done to SDP’s Chee Soon Juan who once heckled then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in public asking “Where is our money?’’ (By the way, Mr Goh, when taunted, made a show of looking into his shirt pocket). I guessed Mr Lee would have decked Dr Chee instead (Now, that would have been an event worth capturing for the record!)

You might remember too the crowds who turned up at Eunos GRC rallies to hear the dapper lawyer Francis Seow, Singapore’s one-time Solicitor-General, who stood on the Workers’ Party platform, castigating the PAP government as a bunch of “eunuchs’’.

More recently, at the GE before the last, there was this dramatic scene of a harried court officer who had to mount the rally stage to deliver Dr Chee a summons. He and Dr Chee had been playing hide-and-seek all day.

Ms Ibrahim described election time as Singapore without the make-up. It’s also politics un-plugged, methinks. What I have always remembered when covering past elections is not quite what the candidates said at rallies, but how they treated people during their rounds. Ms Ibrahim referred to Dr Seet Ai Mee’s “chop chop’’ efficiency during her rounds of Bukit Gombak during one GE and SDP’s Ling How Doong’s more avuncular style. The people picked him. Electability is also about likeability. Whether that likeability translates into real ability as a member of Parliament, however, is something else.

Here’s a suggestion on assessing an MP’s performance.

Each MP should put up a yearly account to their constituents of what they did or said in Parliament. How many sessions did they turn up for? How many Bills did they vote on – and what did they say about them in Parliament? How many questions did they ask from ministers – both oral and written. What sort of answers did they get – and did the questions work in getting things done?

I’m sure (or almost sure) that every MP keeps some kind of record or at least their legislative assistants did (how many have such assistants anyway?)

I think this keeps constituents politically attuned and keeps the MPs accountable. Simply saying vote for me again (I am looking ahead to the next GE) because I am kind, good, committed etc and my party has done what and what… isn’t good enough. Thing is, what have YOU done lately for me as my voice in Parliament?

This yearly accounting could also include attendance at Meet-the-People sessions and the issues raised. The Prime Minister earlier this week gave his own report card for his Teck Ghee residents. I found it useful, because it gives citizens an idea of the issues that affect the people who need help. It’s probably only half a barometer of people’s worries – because the middle-class are more likely to take matters into their own hands than seek a petition from the MP. Now can the other MPs do the same? Or collectively as a party? The Workers’ Party too. If we want to have a Singapore Conversation, it would be good to know the real worries of the people, especially those who are down and out.

Now, back to the by-election. Some random thoughts, some of which are tongue-in-cheek and some not. Leave you to go figure.

a. PM Lee said Dr Koh Poh Koon could be more than an MP if elected. I think he said the same for defeated Aljunied GRC candidate Ong Ye Kung too.

b. Reform Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam will give one tenth of his annual MP allowance, SDA’s Desmond Lim will give one-third. I waiting to hear from WP’s Lee Li Lian and Dr Koh…

c. ST reported that WP had to defend itself from criticisms of its parliamentary performance at rallies -that they were too soft on the PAP. Thing is, I don’t think I have read anything, at least not in MSM, about WP being too soft and should have whacked harder.

d. ST reported WP’s Sylvia Lim saying that some things are submitted to G (alternative suggestions on certain policies)behind “closed doors’’. Goodness! That sounds too cosy a relationship! Why not tell the rest of us what they were?

e. Both WP and PAP candidates and their supporters are trying desperately hard to paint the candidates as “real’’ people. I suppose they are thinking about the likeability factor.

f. Given the “local’’ issues in the ward – not enough coffeeshops, ever-upgrading Rivervale Paza, lack of childcare, bus services – do they make you feel like ex-MP Michael Palmer had been sleeping on the job? No pun intended.

g. Kenneth Jeyaretnam has filed a police report about threats to his family. Desmond Lim has threatened to sue those who are asking if his volunteers were “paid’’. I haven’t heard anything about police reports and law suits emanating from the PAP. Yet?

h. TNP reported that Punggol-east residents are tired of shaking hands and having their quiet estate disrupted by by-election activities. I think the more important question should be: Are they intending to go to the rallies? Or is that crowd at night with feet in muddy waters merely gawkers and sight-seers who cannot influence the vote? (They make for nice pictures though)

i. Finally, does Ms Lee Li Lian mind being called Ah Lian?

And the winner of the by-election is….?

In News Reports, Politics on January 16, 2013 at 11:52 pm

You know what? After the dust has settled on the Punggol East by-election, the winner will be…Rivervale Plaza! It’s like a lightning rod for all the candidates. PAP’s Koh Poh Koon made a first strike by saying he will get the mall done up in six months: “Having listened and interacted with residents over the last week or so, it is clear that infrastructure issues are something of great concern to them. One of them would be the (Rivervale) Plaza, which we have already endeavoured to complete work in the next six months or so.’’

Reform Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam has thundered back, claiming that a recent visit from his party had led to a swift response by the authorities to rectify and expedite the mall’s construction: “We have accomplished more than I think any of the other nine Opposition members in Parliament or the Government in Punggol East.’’

Want to meet the candidates? Go hang around the mall. Now, I wish the media would reprise the Rivervale Plaza saga for readers. Why did the previous contractor go bust? Who’s the owner? New contractor? What’s there now? What has yet to be completed? And why are residents so upset about it?

Some aspects have probably been reported before but it’s become relevant now. I wonder what the candidates are saying to the tenants there – there are some right? And you can bet with all this political attention being rained on the plaza, the owners and management are quaking in their boots.

This four-cornered square dance round the plaza aside, seems Nomination Day sprang no surprises, save a blinding flash of neon green from SDA’s Desmond Lim. Gosh! What a colour! The two independent candidates came – and left, like they have traditionally done in past elections.

Okay, I digress. Truth is, so much is being said about this BE that I am unable to come up with any original thinking. So here are some random thoughts:

a. Congratulations!
I think Today has the best coverage of the BE. Its page one is so well-written with so many insights by political observers, it’s priceless. I don’t mean that the paper is free. Which it is.

b. Online first moves
The online space has covered everything that happened yesterday, including PAP’s Janil Puthucheary lending a hand to a WP supporter who fainted. Online wag, New Nation, promptly satirised the incident as the woman wanting to advance unity among political parties. Unfortunately, STOMP took the fiction as fact and posted it. It was taken down.

c. Side shows
The two independents put up a great side show, ranting and raving about lost forms, supporters who let them down etc. Someone should have a chat with these two eccentrics who are fixtures in every GE. They’re entertaining! If they are so keen to have a stage, why doesn’t someone give them a real one – they can play grumpy old man and Arab sheik.

d. Political predictions and promises
Political pundits are predicting a two-horse race among the quartet – it’s PAP versus WP. SDA and Reform Party are going to lose their election deposit. RP’s Jeyaretnam has pledged to move into Punggol East if he wins. He is promising to be a son of Punggol.

e. All quiet on the PAP front
PAP bigwigs are keeping relatively quiet, compared to the past. Seems they learnt from the Hougang by-election and will let Dr Koh be his own man and stick to his I am me pledge.

f. Where is the SDP?
Is Dr Chee Soon Juan licking his wounds somewhere? I would have thought an interested party would at least show up at the centre, in the name of opposition solidarity? Maybe he doesn’t want to face further questions about his about-face. Or maybe the other opposition parties would prefer that he stayed away?

A possible SDP reply to WP

In News Reports, Politics on January 16, 2013 at 1:42 am

Following the earlier post from Mr Low to Dr Chee. Here is Dr Chee’s reply. Totally fictitious. Apologies to both men.

Dear Mr Low,
Thank you for your letter explaining why you rebuffed our perfectly sensible idea to put forth a unity candidate. I concede defeat and as, you may have read, I have decided that the SDP should pull out of the by-election. (I warn you though that I still have a couple of hours to change my mind.)

Nevertheless, I have decided to heed the growing calls for SDP to pull out of the by-election. I am doing so in the interest of opposition unity. You have forced my hand, and by your silence, you’ve succeeded in making me a pariah of the opposition. Even the netizens whom I believe are my most fervent supporters have turned against me.
I am getting some plaudits now for the withdrawal. Yet there are others who complaining about my lack of determination (I have plenty! ) and botched strategy (which I maintain is correct). My past words are being misinterpreted (again!) and my past moves are being misconstrued (again!). I am Singapore’s most misunderstood politician. Nevertheless I will survive. I will prevail. I am a son of Singapore!

I am now toting up the cost of the preparations for this election. As you can see, I prepared two sets of posters – for both Vincent and Paul. Naturally, they are upset. As are my party members. I would have to do my utmost now to keep them in line, and to stay within the fold till the next GE. As usual, I would have to deploy my usual charisma and charm. They will understand that the SDP has a noble cause, even if the leadership, namely me, is fallible (which I’m not).
By the way, if I was eligible to stand, I am almost certain that the people will be on my side. Chee Soon Juan versus your Lee Li Lian? That’s hardly a contest (pardon my ego). I would have gone to the Nomination Centre, guns blazing. The PAP would have been cowed by my presence. Of course, it will also be looking closely to see if I broke any law in the hope of having me disqualified. You know I started distributing my fliers after the writ of election was called… Some people say I was flouting the campaigning rules. Well, even if I have done so, there is no reason to persecute/prosecute me now since the SDP is out of the fray. From now I intend to keep my nose clean for the next electoral fight. Perhaps, between now and then, we can sit down for a cup of coffee. By the way, you still haven’t given me your handphone number.

My only consolation today is that I made it to the front page of The Straits Times. Not a flattering picture. As usual photographers never manage to capture my good side.

Now that SDP is out of the fray, we are in the midst of intense discussions about whether we should help you with your campaign. Or help SDA’s Desmond Lim. Or Reform Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam. I envisage being a king-maker, or power broker of sorts. Time for the rest of you to court me. I have the resources, the manpower. I am also an orator. Would you like me to speak at your rally?

It remains for me now to do the polite thing and wish you and your party the best in this by-election.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party

Singapore politics: Alive and kicking

In News Reports, Politics on January 15, 2013 at 1:06 am

I wonder why PAP’s Koh Poh Koon is talking about sympathy votes at all. Does he really think talking about his growing up days will make people feel sorry for him and vote him in? A bit salah.

If that’s the case we should be feeling sorry for too many people with a rags-to-middle class past. Sounds like reverse psychology to me. It’s more likely that people will consider his rise from son of a bus driver to being a medical surgeon very commendable. He is an example of a meritocratic society at work – although, as he himself admits, he’s not sure that the system will continue working for the next generation the way it has worked for him.

I wish he would say more about education as a social leveller. He did so over the weekend, but I would be interested to know how he thinks the system should be maintained so that young people can move up the ladder through the system – the way he did. He made all the right noises, well aimed at the younger folks in Punggol East who have young children. Now let’s hear some more, or perhaps, a solution, from him.

So now he is being pitted against Workers’ Party’s Lee Li Lian. I wonder why people are surprised at the choice. It makes you think about us – our attitude and expectations as a people. Most thought that that the party would put up a credentialed candidate or as former WP member Eric Tan said “fall into the elitist trap’’. The WP didn’t.

It’s an inspired choice. Ms Lee looks as different as she can get from the PAP candidate. In fact, she looks like a heartlander – and probably wouldn’t have to make much of that because she looks so “believable’’. Plus, she really does seem more like a Daughter of Punggol, although wisely, she doesn’t label herself so. Married with no children, but not ruling out baby in the future. She and her telco consultant husband would be a target of the White Paper on population. I wonder what sort of views she holds on the baby front.
While the PAP is crafting the election as a local issue; WP’s Sylvia Lim has taken it national – the BE is a barometer of what people feels towards the PAP. This is according to what was reported in Today. I wonder how Punggol East residents will vote.

Dr Koh was reported saying (this is not from MSM but from TR Emeritus): “The residents have to be practical and realistic – that you must choose to vote the person who can do the work for you. I think it’s a fallacy to believe that you can have the best of both worlds – choose the person to make a statement but hope that the other person who’s voted out is going to be having all the resources, all the authority, to get the work done for you.”

You know, I will quickly give Dr Koh and Ms Lee a list of what I want in the estate – Rivervale Plaza ready by tomorrow, more LRT trains, more bus services, a couple of child care centres…and while we’re at it, lower S&C charges.

Isn’t it fantastic to be courted? And now, Desmond Lim of SDA has entered the picture and Reform Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam. The first competed with Ms Lee against Michael Palmer in the last election. Mr Jeyaretnam, on the other hand, doesn’t think he needs an introduction. SDP is also announcing its candidate too. SDP’s Chee Soon Juan, by the way, said in Today that he never did expect WP to accept its offer of a “unity candidate’’. Makes you wonder why he even extended the offer in the first place? All that it resulted in is bad press for SDP – online and offline.

So that makes it a multi-cornered fight unless some last minute pact is brokered before Nomination Day tomorrow. (Don’t forget the two independents who seem to like losing their electoral deposit every time an election rolls around)
Now who says politics in Singapore is dead?

An unscientific look at polls

In News Reports, Politics on January 14, 2013 at 1:45 am

It was interesting that ST is being investigated by the police for contravening elections laws for publishing an election poll. It was more interesting to read what ST did NOT say. If you had read Today, it appears that ST was told off by the police for doing the same thing in 2011, when it polled Aljunied GRC residents. Strange that it didn’t take the warning to heart. Also, the ST report forgot to publish the penalties: for contravening the Parliamentary Elections Act, you are fined up to a max of $1,500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.

Now, given ST’s reply, it looks like it’s about to argue that it wasn’t a full-scale survey or a scientific poll. Now what does that mean really? That no one should take ST’s poll too seriously? I can bet that all the headline writers in Singapore are also wondering about the comment that ST made that the headline “overstated the significance’’ of the poll. The headline, by the way, was “ST poll: More rooting for PAP’’. I’m not sure how such a straightforward headline can be misinterpreted – unless it wasn’t MORE people rooting for PAP. Or the word poll should be substituted with some phrase like: Views from the ground. And take out the numbers in the story…

There was another survey I found most interesting: On the profile of those belonging to Christian groups and the views they hold. To put it simply: Those in megachurches are younger, usually first-generation Christians, against abortion and homosexuality and believe greater wealth is an indication of spiritual health (my words). So morally conservative and highly capitalist, compared to those in established churches.

Now… it is nice to have surveys that pin down some numbers but I’d rather that we tried to make some sense of what those numbers mean or imply.

One academic says that with the current widening income gap, the megachurch Christians will find aspirations “blocked in the secular realm’’ but that the extra spiritual push will help them overcome obstacles to achieving upward mobility.
Really? How so? So Christians would be more inclined to blame God than the G? Or that they will endure hardships because the goal is at hand, however far away?

Another said that given their views on abortion and homosexuality, the megachurches have a strong component of values teaching – as strong if not stronger than the established churches. I wonder what the mainstream churches say to this? I also wonder how “tolerance’’ features in their value system. Or their views on non-Christians….Time I guess for me to get the whole report.

One question: Why were the Catholics not part of the survey? Their views on homosexuality and especially abortion are even tougher methinks.