Two ‘IQ’s to think about – September 15th, 2015
Former diplomat K. Kesavapany did some pondering over the GE2015 results and the decisive victory of the ruling party K. Kesavapany
The electorate spoke and gave a resounding endorsement to the People’s Action Party (PAP). It was a decisive victory with the ruling party winning 83 of 89 seats on offer, while the opposition Worker’s Party (WP) secured six seats. Turnout was 93.56% among 2.46 million registered voters.
There is nothing to quibble about that.
The PAP’s return to power was widely expected but its large margin was a surprise to many, not least to the nine opposition parties, wherein they campaigned on a platform of providing an effective check on the PAP.
The results cement the PAP’s long-running political dominance and highlight the long slog ahead for those pushing for political plurality with an electorate which, for now, appears unconvinced of its merits.
Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) should stop harkening to the past. In a post on his Facebook page, he said he has been looking at the GE results and “trying to make sense of it”. Dr Chee’s team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC secured only 33.38 per cent of the votes in GE 2015, down from 39.92 per cent in 2011.
His other party members fared worse in the constituencies they contested. In Bukit Batok SMC, the party secured 26.40 per cent of the votes; in Bukit Panjang SMC, the SDP’s vote share was 31.62 per cent; in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, it was 31.27 per cent; and in Yuhua SMC, the percentage for the SDP was 26.46 per cent. The SDP did relatively better than the other opposition parties, bar the WP. It secured 3.76 per cent of the national vote, just ahead of the National Solidarity Party’s 3.53 per cent.
Two IQs (Inconvenient Questions) came to my mind over the weekend after GE2015: Is there a continuing need for an opposition and can the ruling party act as its self-checking mechanism? Can the opposition parties ever get together and present themselves as a unified front?
My answer to the first IQ: Yes.
There is a need for a loyal and credible opposition. Among other reasons, it was the concern, if not the fear of losing more seats that made the PAP focus on the four or five critical issues facing the country. They did it well and the electroate rewarded them accordingly. One political virtue of the PAP is to act on the issues that surface and not cede ground to the opposition.
On the second IQ, some tentative steps were taken by the opposition parties to
avoid contesting seats. Even in this limited exercise, there was no unity. On larger issues such as a common or shared manifesto, pooling of resources, there is a long way to go. The contest reminded me of the diminutive Lilliputians taking on the mighty Leviathan.
As PM Lee Hsien Loong summed it up, it was a “good result for the PAP but it is an excellent result for Singapore”, admitting that the outcome exceeded the party’s own expectations. He added: “The results will be noted by the outside world…I believe these results will greatly bolster confidence in Singapore and Singapore’s future.”
Going forward, he has said, let us get to the table and work on helping the Ship of State traverse across the stormy seas ahead.
• K. Kesavapany was Director of the Institute of South-east Asian Studies (2002-2012). He was also Singapore’s Non-Resident Ambassador to Jordan.