Many people have asked me this question, "Why do you want to contest AMK?" Even before nomination day, quite a number of supporters have "cautioned" me of the idea in contesting Ang Mo Kio GRC. I could only smile at them basically because there are reasons that I could not reveal at that time.
The initial idea of contesting AMK was mooted way back end of 2002 by Shin Leong and me. It was I that made this suggestion in the coffeeshop in Hougang. Somehow, somebody got winds of it and started to discuss it in private as well as Young PAP forum. I took the risk by making arguments for this idea but with a catch in it, if and only if we have the resources. I have since then openly discuss the idea so much so that many people thought that I am calling a bluff basically because no one would believe that for such strategic matters, I would want to discuss it so openly. Somehow, it has come to people's mind such happening is "impossible". Even though the journalists and reporters have picked up bits and pieces from the internet forums, but it seems to me that right before nomination day, very few of them really think we would be "stupid" enough to contest AMK.
It was a successful (reverse) psychological campaign in my opinion. However, I must admit that to suggest such strategic option back in 2002 must be the wildest poiltical dream. As the initiator of this idea, I was prepared to be the one challenging AMK GRC, partly because AMK IS my home ground. But with the strength we have back in 2002, we could hardly mount such operations as there are really short of candidates, manpower and resources.
My initial strategic considerations include the following:
1) PM Lee needed a "personal mandate" and we should put pressure on him while he was still relatively new as the Prime Minister.
2) To teach PAP a lesson that gerrymandering with electoral boundaries will one day, backfire on them. They could try to redraw the boundaries, let "heavy weights" swallow up unfavourable grounds and bet on the alternative parties not wanting to contest in these constituencies. Ultimately we want to show them that by doing so, they will just have "indisgestion" eventually.
3) To keep the new PM busy during the 9 days of election campaigning. The logic is that back in 1991, the then PM Goh CT was too busy with his own battle in Marine Parade and thus, the surprise win of 4 seats by the opposition. In 1997 and 2001, Marine Parade was not contested and Mr. Goh CT was so free to go around and campaign for his other comrades.
4) By sending a young team to the PM's ward has many advantages. It will provide the perfect training ground for them to gain experience and political capital, simply because everyone will remember those who challenge the PM in their youth. Furthermore, it provides the perfect contrast between WP and PAP: for WP's young and new candidates, they dare to dream and do the seemingly impossible tasks, instead of hiding behind "heavy weights" to fight the electoral battle. They are not afraid to lose and dare to take the challenge, work towards a long term political road map.
There are other considerations by the party as a whole which I do not have the liberty to reveal here. The above points are based on my personal views.
How successful is the strategy? In my opinion, the contest in AMK has achieved most of my initial objectives. In fact, I was surprised by PAP which suggests that they could get more than 80%. By a mere conservative calculations that we did, due to the fact that AMK GRC includes 3 important WP or opposition strongholds, we expect PAP to get at most 70%. The 3 parts includes Cheng San, Yishun South (which was cut out of previous Yishun Central) and Jalan Kayu. By averaging out using past election datas, we should get about 30% of the total votes. Getting 3% more is a plus to us. I guess PAP is totally out of touch of the ground to even suggest "high 80%" or make our team lose election deposits.
PM Lee was caught in a tight situation. Its a catch 22 situation. If he campaigned vigorously as he did in the first two days (going to MRT station at 6 am to shake hands), it would give people the wrong impression that he took the challenge from the young ones too seriously. However if he did not campaign hard enough, the PAP team might not fulfill its aim of 80% and above! In the end, what we observe was that other ministers (who has no contest in their wards) were deployed to help out with the campaigning in AMK. Whatever was the situation, PM Lee was unable to go around other wards (especially the Aljunied GRC) to campaign as he did in the 1997 & 2001 GE.
The contest in AMK GRC did change many people's perception of WP, especially when the term "suicide team" was publicised but turn around as "better not to fear death as to be kiasi".
But this come with a price: PM Lee gets his own personal mandate eventually. We did not manage to cross the 35% as I have hoped for. With this 66% mandate, PM Lee will be able to consolidate his position and grows stronger in the next few elections. At the very least, he will not be termed as the "uncontested" or "walkover" PM in Singapore and he has earned his own battle stripes in 2006 GE.
If WP has not contested in AMK GRC, there will always be a question mark hanging around the new PM: he would have become the "walkover Prime Minister" which will not be good for Singapore's international standing.
Thus, looking on the bright side for Singapore as a whole, it is really a win win situation for us all, including WP and PAP. Of course, we will still have to solve the problem of "walkover ministers" and "walkover MPs" but at the very least, we do not have a "walkover Prime Minister" to start with.
Goh Meng Seng