Diluting the opposition vote,

and other theories in Singapore elections.

Sometimes, we wonder if Singaporean politics are really quite so different from politics elsewhere in the world.

But having it better is not a legitimate reason for others to silence whatever complaints people do have.

Since democracy allows people to complain. Dictatorships instead, kill their detractors.

I’ve always found it curious that the opposition would choose to not to go into three-ways, as much as possible.

But the truth of Singapore’s present electoral landscape is that we don’t have enough opposition members ready to be fielded for us to have many, many three-ways.

The odd job that the opposition has is the job of ‘preventing a walk-over’. It begs the question, why do they contest in competitions where they will not win?

This creates a logical puzzle, one that is quite interesting to consider!

First, the GRC where our prime minister contests – no opposition group is presently able to defeat him, let alone in his stronghold.

If the opposition does not field candidates to oppose his team, and this is widely accepted, the PM may some year decide to pull a fast one and helm the PAP team in say, Aljunied.

There is a walkover in his old home grounds, and he beats out the WP.

This is not good news for the WP. But five years later, it may not be good news for the PAP too.

When you pit heavyweights against one another, one gets knocked out of the ring. But from an objective point of view, the kicked heavyweight is a stronger candidate than another who has remained standing in another ring.

So the second case instead happens with a fairly predictable nature, the PM stays in his home ground, the opposition fields a team not expected to win. Instead, that election becomes a barometer on the popularity of the PM.

And also, for the popularity of the opposition!

“But that is only useful for the PM,” another cries. What a thought it is. But the opposition in Singapore are meant to be helpful. I think that is good politics, where having opposition helps the government.

Because the next phase in Singapore’s democracy will one day be the day where the PAP and (most likely) the WP form the supermajority government.

It’s like teaching. Through that process, the WP will learn how to govern, how to lead ministries.

Another interesting puzzle, elections in Singapore are like chess moves where each player has an idea of what the opposer may do but does not know for sure.

This is also a story of two possibilities. Either, some heavyweights are more important than others, or actually, heavyweight is simply a title given by the party head.

Let us look at the surprise of DPM Heng shifting. In tandem, the WP’s up-and-coming Nicole Seah was confirmed too.

And unfortunately, they will meet each other in the ring.

If the PAP knew Nicole Seah would move, would they have put DPM Heng there? Did they do it because of the rumours that gave way to truth? The reversed question can be asked to the WP too.

As a good opposition, knowing that DPM Heng is next in line, the polite thing to do would be, of course, to give way.

This would be a tactical decision, also, to then capitalise on the following the WP was growing in Marine Parade.

But the move is also a tactical move, some things could have been predicted. GRCs are never given away freely by the PAP.

They are very sore over their loss of Aljunied, much more than over Hougang. And Potong Pasir had once been a thorn, they felt.

Still, these tactical decisions meant a reclamation of Punggol-East and PP over time.

Every party’s long term goal is to gain and control a supermajority, that’s how politics is.

It’s like free cake, you take it all when possible and then determine who to share with.

WP is trying to strengthen the east as its stronghold. This is a tactical move because of electoral boundaries.

Everyone is beginning to see the increasingly awkward shapes that the boundaries form.

Odd, thin extensions, little portions carved out.

Consolidating in a geographical area means more political capital for the opposition to speak up against the gerrymandering.

Someday, it may be that in the time of the ruling party’s greatest desperation, they will create multiple SMCs out of GRCs that the Opposition holds.

We can see, gently, the shifting boundaries of the grounds that the WP presently holds.

The ruling government asks two questions “Does Hougang like the WP, or Mr Png?” and “Why do they vote for the WP, due to location?”

(As a cute note, though Mr Png is retiring, my little sister always calls him a minister. To her, it’s ‘same diff’. MP and Minister. I guess for this election, our Ivan Lim replacement and our Education minister have ‘big brother’ and ‘minister’ as the same diff.)

Someone said that the East Coast GRC voters have the power to decide if, or if not we have Mr Heng as the next PM.

The thing is, unless we oust both Mr Heng and Mr Chan, we will not be having everyone’s favourite as the Prime Minister.

As hopeful as an opposition voter may feel, looking as the East Coast, East Coast, East Coast speech, I honestly just feel really bad for Mr Heng.

The cadres picked Mr Heng. The top brass preferred Mr Chan. It will then be a pity to all the plotting and exclusivity if there is an upset.

PM Lee is wrong about needing a strong mandate for the government to lead us through the COVID season.

What they actually wanted was a strong mandate for their leadership transition. With Nicole Seah heading a serious WP team, that had hoped to win over East Coast and out whoever the PAP sent to shore up that coast, they will not get it.

They will not lose, I believe. But they will not get the resounding applause that Mr Tharman gets.

(Ah, sorry, I was supposed to avoid saying his name.)

Is this a plot? I’m not sure about you, but if I were pro-Mr Heng, I would be incensed at this move that can destabilise his position. Anger is also symptomatic of our unease and lack of faith.

Mr Heng has said “It’s fine,” he’ll go where he can be of use. But for all that PM Lee says this is not to ‘prove’ anything, it still is.

A normal case of party > leadership. Now if LHL had moved himself to shore up East Coast, no one would worry.

I wonder if the ruling leaders who controlled the allocations believe that Mr Heng holds greater sway over the people of Singapore compared to Mr Chan.

These are questions with no answers. Maybe someday they will write a biography. One that echoes the sentiments of ‘The Politics of Defeat’ by Mr Francis Thomas.

So the ruling party ‘needs’ nothing. The party as a whole will be preserved.

But what may happen to each individual minister and MP? We can only wait and see.

Then, instead, the opposition as a whole instead needs legitimacy.

Presently, none of the opposition is ready to form a cabinet. Perhaps if the PSP has a good showing, they and the WP may be able to helm more minor ministries.

Maybe MCCY? Since artists are non-essential. I do not jest, the thought saddens me.

They avoid three-ways because it ‘dilutes the opposition vote’. This is only relevant if the opposition’s main goal is to oust the PAP.

In a matured democracy, more opposition allows people more space to jump ship from the PAP. Ideally speaking, it would be because different opposition parties have different views.

They are different parties based on policies, which means that different groups of voters would vote for each in the first place.

In reality, this doesn’t happen. Many people vote for the opposition because they believe in having an opposition, not necessarily because they have read the party manifestos and decided that their views align best with the opposition party.

So, this is the result of an imperfect electorate and a not sufficiently diverse and well-sounded-out opposition landscape.

Give it time. I will wait until I can vote. The ruling party has been fifty years in the making and it spent some time as opposition too.

‘A game of chess is an un-apt analogy.’

Call it a game of cards,

your livelihoods and mine,

one where the Kings and Queens are not actually equal.

The King sent to secure the border,

the Queen stayed home on order,

whilst the Ace was left in the larder.

Call it a game of cards and remember,

the players were not dealt the same hands,

let alone the same number.

Now call it a game of cards and ask:

not for iron but for steel;

And for governance wrapped in cotton

produced by sheep

herded by wolves.


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