Sunday, 8 May 2011

What next for the PAP?

What. A. Night.

The Workers' Party has now cemented its position as the second party in a two-party system, albeit one that remains heavily skewed in favour of the People's Action Party. The WP will be celebrating its groundbreaking win in Aljunied GRC, and rightly so. The strong results of even its lesser-known candidates demonstrate the power of the WP brand -- indeed, a study by an Australian polling firm shows the WP brand to be as strong as the PAP's.

What does it mean for the PAP though? How will the PAP respond?

First and foremost, the PAP lost because it had lost touch with the ground. It had clearly under-estimated the extent of antipathy towards it by a large margin. Was this because of a failure in the intelligence from its grassroots organisation (aka the People's Association, even though it is a statutory board), or did the leadership simply ignore or overlook the grassroots intelligence? Those of us on the outside will never know.

But what we do know, is that it was the PAP's arrogance that had led to its downfall. The themes of government accountability and arrogance played so strongly with the electorate, that the Prime Minister was compelled to apologise for the errors of his Government late in the campaign. But it was clearly too little, too late for disenchanted voters. Worse, only the PM and George Yeo actually noted the problems with the party; it was almost as if all of the other ministers remained, in Minister Lim Swee Say's words, "deaf frogs" to the criticisms from the electorate.

I remember that the PM's "apology" speech at Boat Quay was reported in two parts, on the front page and on an inside page. The portion of the report on the inside page was dwarfed by a big article on Minister Mah Bow Tan, quoting him as intending to raise the $8000 income ceiling on HDB flats in response to feedback. Two things struck me: firstly, even though PM had acknowledged the failure to anticipate and prevent spiralling housing prices as a mistake, there was not a single squeak of sorry from Mr Mah; and secondly, the feedback on the income ceiling was not new at all, so why was the Minister considering the change only now?

So the real question is whether the PAP has truly accepted and internalised the lessons from this election and the messages from the voters. My own sense is that the middle ground, that big chunk of voters in the middle who decide the fate of elections, largely approves of the PAP as the governing party, but had grown to dislike the PAP and its style. And that is something that is entirely within the party's control.

I for one think the PM got it right, when he said that the PAP government was not perfect, and will make mistakes, but must acknowledge and admit mistakes, apologise, and then rectify the problem and try to prevent a recurrence. The problem though, is that the PAP hadn't done that at all in the past 5 years, in particular in terms of admitting and apologising for errors.

The PM was spot on when he said that the PAP needed to re-connect emotionally with voters. If the PAP wants to arrest this slide in its popularity, then it needs to be authentic and sincere in engaging with the people.

But the early signs on election night were not positive. The two ministers facing the most personal criticism over the past few years have been Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng and Minister Mah Bow Tan. Both led their teams to a 57% vote share, below the ~60% national average for the PAP. DPM Wong described it as "strong support" from Bishan voters, while Minister Mah called the 10-point swing against him since 2006 a "strong mandate". Few would agree with those claims, which ring hollow and false. If they truly believe their words, then the lessons from GE2011 would appear to have been lost on them, in which case the Opposition can expect even more gains in the next elections.

21 comments:

Varantain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tan Ah Kow said...

I think the question should really be "What next for the electorate?"

The PAP still retain it's two third majority. Ministers who are less than stellar in their performance still held their position without so much as dropping in percentage. Instead a PAP member who is more likely to be able to empathised with the people is voted out.

The WP is hardly any significant departure from PAP.

Question: what does it say about the electorate?

Temperament said...

Most Singaporeans are still rich enough and afraid of changes to the "PAPAYAS"
I think 1st thing you will see will be more and more "ERP Gantries" will be turned on and the hour-on will become longer and longer for all motorists until the next election. Sorry mate, you ask for it, the cost of living will go up but not the standard of living.

sgcynic said...

I have seemingly contradictory concerns:
1. That the landmark victory by the Workers' Party may be end up benefitting the PAP rather than the opposition and the people, as the electorate's desire for opposing voices gets sated and the PAP adjusts its policies to boil the frog more slowly.
2. That the PAP's visible internal split during hustings boils over with the (gradual) demise of Lee Kuan Yew before the next elections and necessary reforms are not undertaken and an alternative party is not in place and ready the at least be a co-driver.

Gary said...

I suspect, MBT and WKS would be moved within the next 5 years and LKY would be calling it a day.

ming said...

These are the worst performing PAP GRCs in the 2011 GE:

East Coast: 54.83% from 63.86% (2006)
Marine Parade: 56.65% from 72.94% (1992)
Bishan/Toa Payoh: 56.94% (previously walkovers)
Tampines: 57.22% from 68.51% (2006)

No prizes for guessing who or what caused the swing of votes in these 4 GRCs.

Mr Prime Minister/Secretary General, please be brave and do the necessary to improve your party's standing.

sophia said...

PM's proposed changes cannot be just of style but more importantly should be of substance. We do not want PAP to be transformed into nice convincing great marketeers who sell stuff that bites or sucks the blood and call it good medicine.

Fighting fit said...

I agree with your comments on Mr Mah. The HDB income ceiling has been at S$8000 for about 14 years, probably more. I remember cos I was affected by it.

Think about it. As wages increase over the years, and the cap doesn't change, that means fewer and fewer people qualify. The only way around that cap is if one spouse quits working. At the very least, it shows HDB isn't keeping up with the times--or isn't interested in doing so.

Mah said a few days ago that it will take up to six months to do a review--studying the pace of salary increase, affordability, etc. Why does it take that long? Private sector analysts can churn out reports with loads of data in a few weeks--certainly not up to six months. Google and you'll find Min. of Manpower or Singapore Statistics reports showing average wages for every sector over the years. Between 1995 and 2005, average wage rose 55%. In 2005 to 2009, it increased 12%. That took me less than 20mins.

If you want affordability study, check with the MoF or MAS or the banks. If not, googling will probably also produce some reports already prepared by some research analysts or banks. If MND really lacks the resourcefulness to figure out these things, something is seriously wrong--from the top down.

My gut feel is PAP or Mr Mah is hoping we'll forget after a few months.

Benjamin said...

An apology is rather hollow when you consider that they benchmark their salaries against the top-earners. I hardly think that any CEO who fails to bring in the performance or makes a grave mistake is granted much reprieve (short of being the majority shareholder & being able to hold on to the position).

When they draw astronomical sums, isn't it conditional upon astronomical results? And who sets the KPI for them? Seems like they do?

Jon said...

People opt for change at the precipice. With a score of 81/87, PAP is hardly at a precipice that will precipitate a change.

Hence, I eagerly await changes that PM has in mind. He does seem to be the only one (other than MM) capable of original thought and actions and I'm inclined to believe that he does have the long term interests of Singaporeans at heart. However, his selection of candidates for renewal is a little worrying. e.g. Clueless TinTin.

I'm guessing that what comes next will be skewed towards 'methods of engagement', 'communication' rather than any substantial change in the substance of party idealogy. i.e. It'll be business as usual for Singapore Inc for the next 5 years. Little tweaks here and there but why break what's not broken ...... till it's broken ....

Wai Chee said...

I will be looking for a flat in Tampines.

Kieran said...

Not too sure if you have read Cherian George's post yet. The assessment is a bit sobering.

http://www.airconditionednation.com/home/GE_2011/Entries/2011/5/8_LOW_THIA_KHIANG_WINS_BIG._WHAT_NEXT.html

Get the MOst said...

My guess would be simple. I have reliable source that the GPS ERP system trial is completed in India. The GLC that is working with LTA is now working closely on the details of implementation. Does that sound like a PAP repent to you?

The math is simple. Calculate the number of zeros in a average minister's pay, then multiply by the number of ministers we have in Singapore and further multiply by 12 months and lastly 5 years. That's right, many zeros! Your guess is probably as good as mine on where these disgusting sum of money come from.

Do not put too much hope the WP team will win over the debate of the ministers' pay. The ratio of 6 to 81 will tell you why. If you ask me, nothing much had changed since the last election. But one thing for sure, less high calibre candidates will join the opposition in the next election with such given result from this election. Moreover, lesson learnt from the past is that PAP will likely rise the stakes higher to prevent the opposition from reaching it in the next election.

Good luck to all Singaporean who believe the PAP will change. Ask yourself, did PM fulfilled his promise that was sealed in the 2006 election? What wrong with breaking another few more this time and blame it on outside factors? This always has been the doing of PAP. And you think it going to change? LOL.

amberzhou said...

agree, that the stagnant S$8k ceiling for BTO flats and S$10k ceiling for exec condos are certainly oversights or lack of foresight of MBT and PAP as a whole.
But to be fair, some ministers had a harder time than their colleagues during this period marked by the global financial crisis where asset prices suddenly tanked, investors are leaving in droves and banks risk going bankrupt on their loans, followed by a equally brisk recovery where asset bubbles started forming and prices needed to be cooled. Think most rational people would still agree that the PAP govt did a reasonably good job to steer SG thru the crisis. Of course, it's always easy to pick on other people and focus on the controversial issues.

Let's hope there are more crises so that we can test our new Opp MPs.

May Rulers of the World Be Righteous said...

Well said Brother Siew Kum Hong. There is a famous Chinese proverb "忠言逆耳“(zhong yan ni er) which means noble words seldom soothe one's ears. This describes well the mentality of the PAP Ministers who for some very sacry reasons, exhibited hubristic tendency in them. Same with MM Lee who always suspected the motive of the opposition, as if they are out to "undo" Singapore no matter how sincere they are. The PAP leadership has this problem of assuming patriotism as proprietary only to PAP's men-in-white.

poh said...

i read newspaper and find out the PAP have lost about 60% and that is a sign that people want to change but question how or what can small changes PAP make to regain back the confidence of singaporean. it like Malaysia, where in 2008 general election BM lost almost 40% to opposition. Now it about 2011 now, the BM working hard but I not that sure about their intention want to help ordinary citizen or just a dance of word. sorry to brought malaysia issue here.


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The Pariah said...

Mah Bow Tan lost his job - and deservedly so.

S Jayakumar stepped down. K Shanmugam even got promoted.

Property market is made up of (A) public and private housing and (B) supply and demand factors.

MND is responsible for supply and demand of public housing and supply for mass-market private housing.

MinLaw is responsible for supply for non-mass-market private housing (Land Titles Strata Act) and demand of landed private housing (Residential Properties Act).

So it looks like MinLaw got away scot-free after their goof-ups in both supply and demand issues in two significant sectors of the property market with spin-off effects, eh?

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