Sunday, May 07, 2006

GE 2006 Impressions

Every person in Singapore will have his or her own impressions of the just-concluded elections. I live within the electoral boundaries of Pasir-Ris Punggol and therefore had a chance to cast that all important vote. Pasir-Ris Punggol is relatively new in terms of housing and facilities, so there wasn't the kind of upgrading issues that plagued such Opposition wards of Hougang and Potong Pasir. So what else in these elections occupied my minds most? These must include:

1. The Greatest Distraction
The Gomez Affair was an issue that is blatantly blown out of proportion and portrayed the PAP in very bad light, as far as I am concerned - petty, bullies, psycho-analyst wannabes, smart-alecky, arrogant. These words and more apply in great measure to one person hyping up the issue - Wong Kang Seng. However, the tactic could have held back more from voting for the WP in Aljunied, so it could have worked. Nevertheless, the bitter after-taste lingers for me and, I believe, for many others. The cost to the PAP in the future can be immense in terms of lost goodwill and a greater fear of associating with PAP and PAP people. Now who will dare to be open and frank with PAP people, even those who have been buddies with you for 10 years or more? Do you now believe more or less in PAP's claim to want to nurture an open and inclusive society? When it suits them, when it comes to the crunch, they will not hesitate to turn around and screw you, friendship notwithstanding. Caution is the better part of valour.

2. Most debated issue
Not cost of living, not the NKF, but lift upgrading. The is a perennial bug-bear or favourite issue, depending on which side you are on. The PAP used it as an enticer, the Opposition claimed it as a right for the people as the money belongs to the people. Ultimately, it didn't matter at all where the PAP wanted it most to matter. The $180m carrot was of no use whatsoever in wresting back the seats of Hougang and Potong Pasir. If nothing, the PAP lost further ground, with Goh Chok Tong's aura of authority, respect and wisdom significantly losing its shine. He was absent at the PAP's post-election press conference. It was left to Lee Hsien Loong to explain his failure. Clearly, this pork-barrel politics is not only not working, it seems to have cost the PAP some significant votes. The PAP should re-strategise, but going by Mah Bow Tan's initial knee-jerk response the morning after polling, the policy will be status quo - i.e. give upgrading to PAP wards first and the opposition wards will continue to be last in line. Obviously, this policy hasn't been effective at all in winning over enough of the people to make a difference, so the PAP will do well to re-think. Perhaps it should offer the 'carrot' way ahead of any elections. People generally do not like threats thrown at them during election time. A positive message is always better than threats. What if Sitoh Yi Pin had gotten the PAP to provide lift upgrading in the preceding 5 years instead of just expensive porridge, you wonder?

4. Most under-debated issue
Cost of living issues were not adequately addressed and debated during these elections, if only because the Gomez affair overshadowed the issue. But this continues to be a real problem that a Progress Package on its own will not address in the long term. In the days to come, it will be inevitable for public transport services and utilities to raise prices because the spike in the price of oil cannot be controlled either by the Opposition or the PAP government. This will again become a bugbear, an issue that was, sadly, neglected.

5. Most silly performance
SDP self-destructed. The SDP, once a dominant political force under Chiam See Tong, is today a shadow of its former glory, all because of Chee Soon Juan who received and acted on very very bad advice from parties overseas, both friendly and unfriendly to Singapore. The party has now become a liability which can expect mass defection to better managed parties such as the Workers Party, and, ironically, the SDA, which is headed by its former head, Mr Chiam See Tong. With a lawsuit hanging over its head, it is a spent force headed for irrelevance and political extinction. I won't bet on this party being around in the next General Elections, slated by 2011 at the latest, at least not under current management.

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