Sunday, May 06, 2012

Hougang By-Eelection & Impact of YSL Saga II

It is a bit ironic for me to write about Hougang By-election on the EVE of 1st year anniversary of last GE. It exposes the weakness of the key opposition party WP which has its own MP self implode to such an extend that a hard fought seat has been lost less than 1 year after GE.

When is the By-Election

Sin Ming has reported that the Hougang By-election may be held on 26 May 20112. According to the same report, PM's ward Ang Mo Kio GRC will be holding by-election along Hougang as well. I have done some check on these information and find that it is quite likely to be so. I believe the details on the by-elections will be announced very soon. Nevertheless, I may be wrong but let's look at Hougang and impact of YSL so far.

NSP: Show or no show?

Nicole Seah has declared that she is not going to contest in the Hougang by-election. This is good news for WP and ardent opposition supporters who don't want to see 3 corner fight, but it is bad news for NSP. Nicole Seah has said something more than necessary to compromise her party's position. She has said that ANYONE who intends to contest Hougang would be disrespecting the decades of hard work Low Thia Khiang has put in Hougang. This may sound "good" on the surface but it has basically closed the door for NSP to contest in Hougang. Intriguingly, NSP SG Hazel Poa and Chairman Sebastian Teo have repeatedly said that NSP has not decided on this matter yet.

Is NSP still trying to call the bluff? Who else could they send beside Nicole? I don't think Hazel nor Sebastian would go to Hougang personally. Jeanette? Seriously, I don't believe anyone else in NSP would be effective or suitable for Hougang by-election at all. Thus, most likely, NSP will be a "no-show" in Hougang by-election unless they end up sending just anyone anyhow. That would be bad for NSP's branding and image in the long run because it would truly be viewed as a "spoiler", insincere and taking elections too lightly. One of the key reasons why I feel that sending Nicole to Hougang by-election would be a good move is because it would not make NSP look like a "spoiler" but taking the contest very seriously. So serious that they would stake their most popular candidate to contest.

3 Corner Fights Everywhere for Next GE?

With the loss of such strategic option, NSP will have a hard time in future negotiation to avoid 3 corner fights with WP. Interestingly, Zaobao has written a news report on WP's intention to contest in Tampines GRC for the next GE. (For some strange reasons, it quoted my earlier post while one of its reporter Yew Lun Tian has written a commentary making unwarranted attacks on me to justify not reporting on the same article.) It reported Sylvia Lim saying that WP intended to expand its contest to include 8 GRCs for the next contest. She has given a hint on where these 8 GRCs would be. She has indicated that proximity to WP's bases in Hougang and and Aljunied GRC would be the key consideration. If you look at the map, this would mean that WP's expansion plan would most probably include Tampines, Marine Parade, Bishan-Toa Payoh and either Pungol-Pasir Ris or Tg Pagar, on top of the 4 GRCs they have contested in GE2011.

NSP Strategically Cornered

NSP would not be able to put up a "brave front" during the negotiation in order to scare off WP from Tampines and Marine Parade. Who would believe NSP to have the courage to fight any 3 corner fights with WP in a GRC when it does not even have the courage to fight a 3 corner fight in a Hougang SMC now? Least to say that any "threats" of possible retaliation of sending teams to Aljunied or East Coast or even Hougang would be not be viewed as credible threats at all. NSP is strategically cornered. Its "subtle threat" of contesting in Hougang (in the hope for negotiation on avoidance of future clashes) has lost credibility after Nicole Seah's comment. This will affect all future plans and 3 corner fights in NSP's best turfs, Tampines and Marine Parade will be inevitable unless "miracle" happens. There is one possible way for such miracle to happen but I shall leave it to another post another day.

The Inconsequential AMK GRC By-Election Strategy

The initial information I gathered indicated that PAP might want to combine Ang Mo Kio GRC with Hougang SMC while cutting out Yio Chu Kang from the present AMK GRC to form a SMC by redrawing the boundaries prior to the by-election. This would raise the difficulty for WP in defending Hougang and provide a real chance for PAP to take back Hougang SMC while reducing WP's seats in parliament. However, I believe this plan has been shelved because strategically, it is unsound for the ruling party to risk its PM's standing for a SMC which doesn't threaten PAP's ruling party status. It might just worsen PAP's public image of playing dirty with such underhand tactic.

PAP may want to use the corresponding AMK GRC by-election to make a contrast to WP: PAP calls for by-election because it wanted renewal to its rank, WP wanted to call for by-election because its MP just screw up badly. PAP may also use the opportunity to sell the idea that they could put Hougang SMC under the PM's direct care in AMK GRC if they win Hougang. I do not think WP will contest in AMK by-election and whether other opposition parties will turn up is yet to be seen (quite unlikely to me). But if WP really did contest in AMK by-election, it would be an interesting contest. That could be seen as a way to counter PM's proposition... well, let WP win AMK and they could still let Hougang to combine with AMK Town council! However, this will be quite unlikely when we take into the consideration of the wide impact of Yaw-gate beyond Hougang. 

Depth of Yaw-gate impact

Even with the certainty of a straight fight in Hougang SMC, there is no reason for WP to feel complacent at all. According to verified information, WP is facing a rather serious and obvious backlash from the ground. These negative sentiments appear beyond the boundaries of Hougang and Aljunied. According to sources, WP has stopped the weekly sales of its publication Hammer for about two months now. They have stopped this very important ground activity just not too long after Yaw Shin Leong has been sacked.

The official WP's reason for the cessations of the weekly Hammer sales is that they wanted to concentrate on the ground work in Hougang and Aljunied. For those who lack the understanding of WP's political operations, weekly Hammer sales is one of the most important political ground work for the party. It provides consistent visibility of the party to the public, allowing the party to engage the voters on the ground while earning some funds for party's operations. It also allows the party to gauge public sentiments and judge the party's support around Singapore. WP will not stop weekly Hammer sales without any good reasons, especially so for an extended period of time.

According to sources, the real reason for the temporary cessation of Hammer sales is due to the ground's sarcasm and harsh questioning on what exactly happened to Yaw Shin Leong. They even got into argument with residents in Yishun which resulted a public show of discontent at the party. Eventually, WP decided to stop the Hammer sales altogether for the time being, hoping that such public backlash and discontent would subside after some time.  

Such public show of discontent at WP may not be apparently evident in Hougang but it is creeping into the middle ground voters' mind. There is no doubt that the YSL saga has long lasting impact on not only WP but on other opposition parties as well. Other opposition parties have also faced mean and nasty sarcasm from the ground with regards to YSL even when they tried to explain that ther are not WP. The vast and depth of the negative impact of Yaw-gate on WP and the whole opposition movement cannot be underestimated lightly.

Expected Vote Swing against WP and its implications

The expected swing of votes against WP is about 5% to 8%. Although nobody would expect a 15% vote swing but if it happens and there isn't a 3 corner fight, WP will lose its Hougang seat to PAP. As I have indicated in my previous post before, a 3 corner fight may not be a bad thing for WP if the third candidate isn't that strong. It would help to cushion the impact of vote swing against WP.

The extend of the vote swing in Hougang against WP would affect its strategic options for the next GE. If the vote swing in Hougang is so great that it became a neck to neck fight in Hougang, WP may be forced to readjust its strategic positioning for the next GE. It may be an indication of bigger than expected general backlash against WP, all thanks to Yaw-gate and WP may have to reconsider very carefully on whether it is wise for it to go all out for 3 corner fights with parties like NSP.

Maybe, hopefully, it would just be a "blessing in disguise" for NSP's apparent lack of will to contest the Hougang by-election so that it would not be blamed for whatever impending big vote swing WP may face. i.e. it will not become the scape goat for blame.


Although this coming by-elections in Hougang as well as AMK GRC will not be "exciting" at all, but the result in Hougang will be very important as a testing stone for future GE dynamics.

Even without a 3 corner fight in Hougang, the extend of the vote swing against WP will dictate on WP's ability and strength of bashing into others' territories. If WP actually loses Hougang (i.e. 15% vote swing) in a straight fight, it would mean that even Aljunied may be in danger in next GE as well. Aljunied GRC has only a margin of less than 5%. A vote swing of more than 8% against WP in Hougang stronghold would imply a disastrous impact on WP's overall party brand image due to Yaw-gate.

The result of Hougang by-election will also be viewed as the judgement of Hougang voters on Low Thia Khiang's legacy and the method he handled Yaw-gate. Hougang is after all LTK's home base to start with. Whether his decades of hard work and legacy in Hougang would be destroyed by Yaw Shin Leong will be reflected by the outcome of Hougang by-electoin. 

Goh Meng Seng

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

self contradicting !!! send nicole seah because she is strong but good for WP if the 3rd candidate is weak. joke!