In our previous article, we analysed the changes, divisiveness and prospects of the Singapore General Election (GE). Now, we take a look at the scorecard.
Strong mandate for the PAP
Today, the nation has spoken, bringing about a massive electoral swing in favour of the ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP). Despite the massive crowds at opposition rallies, Singapore’s silent majority continues to trust and support the PAP.
The PAP won 83 out of 89 seats, just six seats shy from being the only elected party in Parliament.
The Workers’ Party (WP) took the remaining six seats and will be the only elected opposition party in the upcoming Parliament. Three of the best performing candidates among those defeated may also serve as non-constituency Members of Parliament.
Diagram by The Straits Times
Mr Lee Hsien Loong, leader of the PAP and Prime Minister of Singapore, won 78.6% of the votes in his Group Representation Constituency (GRC), Ang Mo Kio. This was the second-highest percentage of votes won in the election. Notably, the PAP team in Tanjong Pagar GRC, which was previously helmed by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), also won a landslide victory over Singaporeans First, garnering 77.7% of the votes.
These large victories suggest that Singaporeans remain confident in a post-LKY PAP and firmly support younger PAP leaders like Mr Chan Chun Sing and Mr Tan Chuan-Jin.
The Opposition: injured but alive?
On the other side, the WP lost its seat in the Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC) and narrowly retained its coveted Aljunied GRC (by a margin of 2%). Even in Hougang SMC, a long-time WP stronghold, votes for the WP dropped from 62.1% to 57.7%. All in all, the WP faced a big setback to its ambition to expand its political clout to constituencies in the East.
Unsurprisingly, many supporters of the WP were visibly disappointed and shocked. WP candidates, however, remained confident that more constituencies “will be Blue one day” (blue being WP’s political colour).
Mr Chen Show Mao, MP for the Aljunied GRC, stated “we will reflect, introspect and better ourselves.” Another WP member, Mr Gerald Giam, said “we have done our best, and we will continue… to fight for Singapore.”
Photograph by Alphonsus Chern
None of the other political parties, including the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), came close to defeating the incumbent. The SPP’s showing in Potong Pasir SMC (33.6% of the votes) was the highest among the rest of the Opposition, but it was still a definitive defeat in spite of the popularity of veteran opposition leader, Mr Chiam See Tong, and his wife, Ms Lina Chiam.
Surprisingly, even though Dr Chee Soon Juan of the SDP managed to reconnect with the public and gained a large number of followers on social media in his short campaigning period, his team only won 33.4% of the votes. Undoubtedly, the strength of the Opposition has greatly wavered in this election.
Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, leader of the Reform Party, was particularly displeased with the national swing against the Opposition. According to Mr Jeyaretnam, “all this is a mandate for authoritarianism and brainwashing”. A more measured Dr Chee warned that the current political landscape is “undemocratic”.
Similar to GE 2011, in GE 2015, PAP won all but six seats. But this is not status quo per se: PAP’s votes have increased significantly across the board, winning more than 70% of the votes in many constituencies. The last time Singapore saw such a high level of support for the PAP was actually in 2001.
Make no mistake about it: Singapore GE 2015 was hard fought. And it was won spectacularly.
With such a strong mandate, PAP’s representatives will naturally be more confident about future policymaking and implementation. Thus far, in almost every victory speech, PAP politicians have been using a markedly different tone, one that speaks more of humility than arrogance.
The PAP has promised policy adjustments and improvements, and candidates have been working hard to communicate with the people and understand the ground. Only time will tell whether or not Singaporeans have made the right choice.
On 11 September 2015, every eligible Singaporean will be able to vote at a polling station, and most will be deciding between the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and alternatives like the Workers’ Party (WP). For the past 50 years, the PAP maintained a stronghold in Parliament, steadily winning the vast majority of seats in every GE until 2011.
The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who led the PAP until the 1990s, was a charismatic and strong-willed leader who believed that ruling leaders “must have the iron” in them. His foresight in economic matters and foreign affairs has been hailed as the key reason for Singapore’s rapid growth from third world to first. With Mr Lee’s passing earlier this year, GE 2015 will officially usher in a new political era and be a major testing ground for current Prime Minister and PAP leader, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.
Recent changes in the political landscape
In GE 2011, Singapore’s most recent “watershed election”, the dominant opposition party, the Workers’ Party (WP), won 7 seats including 1 group constituency, creating an unprecedented crack in the PAP’s strong walls.
GE 2011 also saw the retirement of Mr George Yeo, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and PAP candidate, from the local political scene. It was a difficult decision for Singaporean voters in the Aljunied constituency, not unlike the decisions that may be made in this GE’s “hot” constituencies, including the East Coast and MacPherson constituencies. Was choosing WP the right move? With rigorous debate over the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council saga dominating the early stages of GE 2015, the jury is still out.
Although the political scene in Singapore is relatively young, it is evolving. In GE 2015, there have already been some obvious changes. Opposition parties, including smaller ones like the Singapore People’s Party and Democratic Progressive Party, are now fielding more educated candidates with distinguished professional backgrounds than ever before, touting them as competent spokespersons for the people.
Diagram by Channel NewsAsia
Certain opposition candidates, such as SDP’s Dr Chee Soon Juan, have also been emphasising that their parties offer many viable alternative policies to those currently in place by the PAP. A more regular use of statistics and studies to back up such policies has given the impression that they are well researched, albeit not tried and tested in Singapore yet.
Compared to previous elections, the number of credible alternative media websites has increased substantially, allowing the electorate to have a more informed understanding of all political parties and candidates.
Divisiveness and debate
At the end of the day, the PAP’s narrative is simple. The PAP is a cruise ship: vote for the PAP, and the party’s competent and incorruptible leaders will continue to make Singapore an exceptional nation. Vote for the Opposition, and you will get “a mouse in the House”.
In response, WP’s leader, Mr Low Thia Khiang, agreed that the PAP is a cruise ship, but “[its] name is Titanic” (alluding to its fallibility). In this regard, the PAP has repeatedly emphasised in its manifesto and rallies that it has a strong track record and has delivered on its promises to the people.
Regardless of who is correct (or wrong), this divisiveness in politics and policies has generated great interest in opposition rallies, and accordingly, the crowds have been large.
What lies ahead?
In all likelihood, the PAP will continue to form the next government. The election is more a matter of how many opposition members and parties, if any, Singapore will see in its new Parliament. Will the people continue to trust and support the PAP, or will the desire for cross-party checks and concerns over pensions, cost of living, and immigration policies prevail?
GE 2015 will be hard fought. In three days, Singaporeans will either witness yet another renewal of the PAP’s legacy, or a continuing shift in the tides of political control. However, to many, these are empty words; perhaps the bread-and-butter issues are the only real concerns.
Ultimately, to vote for the Opposition is to take on a certain risk – it is to depart from the familiar and enter new territory. Whether this is a risk worth taking remains squarely up to the judgement of Singapore’s increasingly vocal and astute electorate.