A major election happened in Singapore last week. The result was surprising to some, although I'm not sure why.
Singapore's ruling party, The People's Action Party (PAP), won about 70% of the popular vote and made major headway in almost all constituencies, even the ones previously dominated by the opposition.
Some opposition party politicians like Tan Jee Say and Kenneth Jeyaretnam have expressed surprise at the result since it's different from the feedback they heard on the ground and what they perceived to be a general dissatisfaction with the government.
But, the opposition parties discounted 3 major things:
- SG50 year-long celebration - a constant reminder of Singapore's remarkable transformation attributed directly to the PAP
- Reverence for the late Lee Kuan Yew - The father of the nation and founder of the ruling party passed away this year and the ruling party is able to capitalize on the sympathetic votes
- Most importantly, the lack of unity from the 8 different opposition parties
The last point is very important as the opposition parties, divided by their own personal ideologies, actually made it easier for the ruling party to fight against them.
Everyone was touting how this is the first time in 50 years all 89 seats were being contested without actually looking at the quality of the candidates. This is similar to the ridiculous amount of Republican candidates vying to win the US Republican nomination. Not all candidates should be considered a candidate.
In Singapore, the 8 opposition parties were splitting their resources and trying to recruit opposition candidates for their own parties instead of pooling their resources to find the best opposition candidates to go against the ruling party. Tan Jee Say and Kenneth Jeyaretnam have impressive credentials and if they had worked together, that would have doubled the credibility of the opposition. I'm simplifying it, of course, but you get the idea.
The opposition party that fared the best was The Workers' Party (WP). If you look at the quality of their candidates, like He Ting Ru, Leon Perera, and Dr. Daniel Goh, it's quite impressive. These are the kind of candidates that are comparable to PAP candidates, in terms of credentials at least. And yet, WP actually lost Punggol East and the PAP improved their margins in WP-held ward of Aljunied and Hougang.
What did this demonstrate? That the opposition made it too easy for the PAP. From the people I interacted with, I think the general dissatisfaction with the government is very real. But, the opposition did not present enough credible candidates to convince the public to consider giving them a chance. If anything, the 2015 General Election was the PAP's to lose.
In the meantime, the PAP will have 4-5 more years to improve living standards for its citizens (traffic, housing, wages, etc) before they have to square off against the opposition once more. As long as they don't screw up, their position should be more secured than ever.