Saturday, April 23, 2011

Singapore Election: Chances of a political tsunami

Posted by singaporege2011 on April 23, 2011

In the weeks leading to the Malaysian General Election in 2008, public dissatisfaction and anger against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition reached a feverish state in Malaysian chatrooms and blogs.

While the internet was abuzz with the corruption scandals which plagued the Malaysian government, the Malaysian media continued to paint a rosy picture on the ground to create a ‘feel good’ factor among the populace, ignoring the prevailing sentiment in cyberspace.

Famous Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamarrudin made a bold prediction on his blog Malaysia Today that the opposition will win at least four Malaysian states and deny the Barisan its two-third majority in parliament. His prediction was laughed off by many as Barisan Nasional under then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi won a landslide victory in the preceding general election in 2004.

When the political tsunami finally hit Malaysia on 8 March 2008, Badawi was so shell-shocked that he did not know what hit him. One of his first public statements after the election was: “I think we underestimate the influence of the New Media and was made to pay a heavy price for it.”

The situation in Singapore right now is exactly the same as in Malaysia in 2008 though the issues are different. The cyberspace is swarmed by anti-PAP views and comments which are hardly reported in the mainstream media. PAP leaders continue to pay lip service to Singaporeans instead of addressing their genuine concerns.

So will Malaysia’s political tsunami hit the shores of Singapore on 7 May? Yes and No.

The coming general election will be a pivotal moment in the history of Singapore. There is widespread unhappiness with the PAP government’s policies such as its economic, immigration and labor policies. The opposition is also fielding its strongest slate of candidates to contest in all the constituencies for the first time since Singapore’s independence.

Compared to 2006, the ground has clearly shifted in favor of the opposition. Singaporeans have never been so frustrated, vocal and disgruntled. Their deep-seated anxieties, angst and anger have been building up for quite some time already, waiting to explode.

The PAP is expected to lose votes which was acknowledged by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself when he described the PAP’s last election result of 66 percent as a ‘very high number.’

Given the prevailing public sentiment, it is highly unlikely that the PAP is able to repeat its last election result and it may even fail to secure 60 percent of the valid votes.

Though a swing of between 8 to 15 percent of the votes to the opposition is likely, the number of seats won by the opposition may vary greatly from none to more than 30 seats which will deprive the PAP of its traditional two-third majority in parliament due to the GRC system.

In the worst case scenario for Singaporeans, the shift in opposition votes is only marginal. The PAP manages to win back Hougang and Potong Pasir on the support of voters yearning for HDB upgrading and better amenities in their estates. The slight drop in percentage of votes elsewhere is insufficient to translate into numbers and the PAP remains in power albeit with a reduced mandate.

If the shift against the PAP is big enough, the opposition will not only keep just Hougang and Potong Pasir, it will probably win a few single seats and at least two or more GRCs as well.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong once said that as Singapore is a small island with the same demographics everywhere, voters who support the PAP will be spread more or less equally over all the constituencies. To put it aptly: If you win, you win big, but if you lose, you lose big as well. There will not be ‘in between’ results.

In the 2008 Malaysian election, the opposition actually won 51 percent of the valid votes in Peninsula Malaysia. The Barisan Nasional was saved by its ‘fixed deposit’ of votes in Sarawak and Sabah. The opposition swept all the urban cities throughout Malaysia. In Kuala Lumpur alone, 10 out of 11 seats were won by the opposition. The two most industrialized states of Penang and Selangor fell as well.

When the times are good, the GRC system works for the PAP, enabling it to entrench an absolute majority in parliament, but when the ground is no longer as sweet as before, it will work against them. The PAP may lose several seats because of the GRCs and suffer a heavy defeat as a result.

The opposition should start making plans of forming the government now because a ‘freak’ election result, which was a remote possibility a few months ago, no longer appears to be an impossible dream now. Just like a tsunami will sweep away everything in its path, the wrath of angry voters cannot be underestimated.

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