3 May 2006

Stakes high for Singapore's PM in May 6 poll

A balanced article...
Wed May 3, 2006 8:48 AM IST

By Fayen Wong

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his People's Action Party (PAP) want nothing less than a crushing victory in the May 6 election -- one that will obliterate the opposition and confirm Lee's right to rule.

The PAP has dominated politics since independence in 1965 and had 82 of the 84 seats in the last parliament. For Lee, son of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, a loss of more seats or a poor result in terms of votes cast would be an embarrassment.

A stronger showing by the opposition parties could also help attract young, well-educated voters, as well as Singaporeans who have been reluctant to speak out against the monolithic PAP.

"There is a certain sense of nervousness in the air and the stakes are high for the PAP," Ho Khai Leong, a political analyst at Nanyang Technological University, told Reuters.

"If the opposition wins more seats, it would spark off a trend; more professionals would join the opposition," he said.

The poll will be the first real popularity test for Lee, 54, since he was appointed in August 2004 without an election.

Analysts said that for Lee to have a strong mandate, he needs to secure at least 61 percent of the popular vote and lose no more than four seats, which was the result his predecessor, Goh Chok Tong, got in the PAP's worst electoral outcome in 1991.

Singapore's tiny opposition parties have never won more than four seats in parliament.

Opposition politicians blame this on PAP tactics such as defamation lawsuits against their leaders, threats that opposition wards could be excluded from subsidised housing renovation schemes and negative coverage by the state-owned broadcaster and pro-government newspapers.

Yet, despite the pitfalls, opposition parties are attracting more overseas graduates and upwardly mobile professionals.

"If more professionals join the opposition camp, then in a few more elections, the PAP may not be able to keep its dominance in parliament," said Ho.

The 20 new names fielded by the Workers' Party, the oldest opposition party, included many with careers as academics, lawyers and bankers -- a far cry from previous line-ups.

The opposition has fielded candidates for more than half the seats in parliament, denying the PAP an automatic victory on Nomination Day for the first time in nearly two decades.


The bedrock of PAP support has always been with older voters, who lived through Singapore's rocky post-independence years and witnessed its transformation into an economic powerhouse.

But some older voters, particularly the low-income workers, have grown increasingly disgruntled because of job cuts, higher consumer taxes and rising transport and utilities costs.

About 40 percent of today's eligible voters were born after 1965. These Singaporeans faced few hardships and may be tempted to vote for the opposition, analysts said.

"Some Singaporeans, particularly the younger voters, are not impressed with the way the country is being run," said Seah Chiang Nee, a political commentator. They see the PAP's electioneering tactics as below the belt, he added.

The PAP is only too aware of the need to woo young voters. When Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister, he made an impassioned speech promising to create more political openness and encouraged the young to be more involved in politics.

Yet there is scant evidence of loosening up.

Lee's government has cracked down on a political film maker, banned a gay Web site and strictly enforces limits on public speaking and demonstrations. Last month, the government said it would require political parties and individuals to register if they wish to post political content on Web sites.

"The PAP are in a quandary. They know they need to open up but are afraid that they would lose complete control if they move too quickly into uncharted territory," Seah said.


Anonymous said...

"They see the PAP's electioneering tactics as below the belt".

I guess this was written before Gomez was unjustly crucified. The PAP tactics are not below the belt, they are between the legs.

Despicable. Really despicable.

Anonymous said...

Even if the opposition do manage to gain further seats, I am certain the governing PAP will quickly discover new slegal ways of making it impossible for the new MP's to sit in the house.
BG and his father have become desperate, and scared of the new thinking Singapore voter.

They feel they could be facing a crack in the damn. If four constituency's changted hands on Saturday, the situation could escalade, and it could be forty at the next election.

Today's thinking breed of opposition are different from the closed minded run of the mill PAP member. They are able to debate to lengths far ahead of the present PAP gentry, many unable to string a sentence together.Compare a debate in Singapore parliaament to a debate in Englands houses of parliament.

Today's Guardian columnist was correct in describing our single tier government as a municipal council. I would say what you hear nin parliment if more like a typical English town council.
However, I sadly feel after this election has been counted, the desperate PAP will seek new ways of outlawing any opposition parties. They seem to be forget the string of very bad and damaging coverage they receive from world media. And if this situation gets out of hand Singapore may face a problem where new companies are likely to take a second look at the once safe country.

I cannot offer a solution. But I only hope that the PAP do not strangle the life out of their frightened population, and yes the man in the street is frightened of his own shadow.

I leave the effects of the anti publicity to run its course.

Anonymous said...

The problem for the PAP is that Singaporeans can no longer be fooled and the sunami of public will and opinion will in the end egulf them .History will condem MM .He is an old man that should be basking in his past achivments but will sadly in the end be rembered only for the way he played the game by gread and lies and deceit .Like all meglomaniacs they are there own worse enemy

kt said...

While we are all fighting for human rights & democracy , let's cherish the peace & harmony we are enjoying now.
Over the past 40 years, Singaporean stays united as one to archieve prospect & prosperity. We stay as one to fight against SARS & luckily not hit by the Tsunamis.
We have built a strong foundation, political stable is one of the key factor to Singapore success. This does not happen overnight. This is the effort put in by every Singaporean & lead by capable leader.
Nobody is perfect so does the PAP. So we voted for opposition, telling them not to be too extreme. I urged the PAP government to have dialogues with all Singaporeans, get to the bottom of problem so as to archieve a even better & fairer system. I also urged the younger Singaporeans to be realistic on issues & challenges that Singapore is facing. We can't have everything in the world.

Anonymous said...

While times has changed, the PAP sadly has not. If they lose power whether be it this election or in future elections, then they have only themselves to blame. They are political dinosaurs destined for extinction if they don't learn to adapt to the winds of change.

Is there any change in the way they are campaigning? Its still defamation lawsuits, implicit/ explicit threats, living on past glories and fear mongering among the voters.

Todays' voters are no longer dependent on the ST for their news and reports. The PAP no longer has a stranglehold on information. If they don't start engaging the voters on a deeper more intellectual level, its just a matter of time before they completely alienate everyone and fade away into obscurity.

Anonymous said...

some time afterwards the PM will do a major renewal replacing old by young; he has been rather quiet about the current topic - he has the freedom to make his own decision and not follow, while other ministers have less option; the contrast between father and son is becoming quite prominent

Anonymous said...

but pm also said on May day rally that "contentment is happiness" and why the insistence to fight hard to have a "clean sweep" if not 83 out of 84 seats. Isn't 82 seats good enough to be contended with?

GY initially said to remove gomez and later said to remove him after polling while the remaining members of wp still could contest - sounds like the rule and regulations can be changed at their whims and fancy. so will whatever they promise now be changed to empty promises after election?

Pls read Yawning Bread: GRC election quiz

Anonymous said...

poor guy; very painful watching him; he gets embarrassed easily