Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hougang By-Eelection: Png Eng Huat vs Desmond Choo IV

I have to put up a disclaimer and caution here before I write further. It is not my objective or job to make sure any party wins this Hougang By-election. I am a non-partisan writer and I am only interested to provide more information and commentaries to make democracy in Singapore works better. It is similar to a free market economy, we would need to have free flow of information in order to allow our voters to have more information in order to make informed choices.

If you have taken sides, be it PAP or WP/opposition, please do not take my writing too seriously else you will risk being unnecessarily irritated. Let's begins.

Now that the air is all clear that we would be having only a straight fight between WP Png Eng Huat vs PAP Desmond Choo, I will zoom down to the two candidates. Before that, I must say, Dr Poh Lee Guan is really an enigma to me. He has pulled a stunt which is void of logic and common sense. He told TNP last night that he is standing in Hougang but only to find himself telling the press that he is the "unofficial spare" this morning. This is really a political suicidal move.

I went down to the nomination centre today with a group of friends to get a feel of the Hougang ground. There was a sizable crowd from both WP and PAP. WP tends to have more residents supporting them on the ground and that is natural when Hougang is WP's stronghold for the past 2 decades. However, the level of enthusiasm and passion were lesser than what I have expected.

As usual, PAP have buses bringing their members to the nomination centre from else where, most probably from the Sembawang and Tampines divisions. The PAP members have put up their best show of support but I guess it can never beat the spontaneous enthusiasm demonstrated by the residents.

Having said all these, I think the personal charisma and skill sets of both candidates play a very important part in this contest. Whether we like it or not, looks, public speaking/linguistic and PR engagement skills are very important attributes to win hearts, souls and votes at the ground level.

I have watched both Png and Desmond spoke after the nomination as well as the speeches they have made last year during the GE recorded on Youtube. As much as I would want to side with opposition, objectively speaking, Desmond Choo fairs much better than Png Eng Huat on all counts.

Png tends to speak with an uncomfortable American accent which sounds fake. This doesn't really go well for the heartlanders. His Mandarin simply cannot make it as compared to Desmond Choo. His pitch is just too high while speaking Mandarin. On top of that, Png seriously needs an image consultant because the overall look is pretty bad as compared to Desmond Choo. His hair looks awkwardly awful and he walks with a slight hunchback.

Desmond Choo comes across as a passionate and energetic young man but somehow his speeches has been littered with frowning eyebrows and shaking of head in frustration. It reminds of the TV 8 drama series whereby it is very common for actors to cry, shout and scream in frustration and anger. Nobody likes angry man.

As for political messaging and strategy, it is apparent that Desmond Choo is desperately trying to capture two important grounds: municipal issues as well as trying to portray that he is a man of his own with an independent mind. But his messaging sucks big time. For example, who will believe that he could be "independent of PAP"? This is a big leap of faith and logic to most people. But if he could just say that "I respect Dr Tan Cheng Bock very much and aspire to be the younger version of TCB in PAP". That would somehow sound more convincing because TCB as a concept, closes the gap from PAP to being independent minded and provides the possibility of such existence among the concept of PAP.

On the other side, WP leaders and Png tried to avoid on the contest of municipal issues but shifted to the notion of "providing the democratic voice", Hougang as the birthplace of democracy, Hougang voters have guts etc... This tactic targets at the emotional sentiments and evoking the pride and sense of mission for Hougang voters to help "defend democracy". This is a good tactic at the moment to galvanize support in view of the potential loss of votes due to Yaw-gate, but such theme could only go so far.

I am quite surprise when I watch the personal engagement that both candidates have done on the ground through some news clips. Watch the two short news clips below:

Desmond Choo

Png Eng Huat

Generally speaking, opposition members should be more natural and smooth in communicating and engaging residents on the ground. But observe the body language of Desmond Choo and Png Eng Huat. Png appears to be quite stiff and uneasy while communicating with residents, consciously keeping a "safe distance" from the residents. He is not as warm as Desmond Choo. On the other hand, Desmond Choo appears to be relax and comfortable while communicating with residents.

If these two candidates are contesting solely on their own merits, I believe Desmond Choo will win hands down. However, the truth is, Desmond Choo is fighting against the WP and LTK branding as well.

It is pretty clear that Desmond Choo has a relative advantage over Png Eng Huat in personal charisma, speech/linguistic abilities as well as PR skils. If Desmond Choo and Png Eng Huat are to engage in a Town Hall debate for all residents to participate, Desmond Choo may well convert more middle ground voters to support him. However, I don't think the conservative PAP would agree to have "political Town Hall debates" with its opponents neither do I think WP would let Png to participate in such debate due to the apparent disadvantages Png suffers in comparison.

I have challenged PAP Mah Bow Tan to a debate on HDB issue before but he refused to take up such challenge. It would be a bit of wishful thinking to expect PAP to initiate such a challenge to opposition. On the other hand, if Desmond Choo really throw the challenge to WP, it would be interesting to see how WP rejects such a challenge to debate when they have been stressing the need to preserve the opposition voice of Hougang in parliament.

For this Hougang by-election, it is inevitable that both sides would engage their "heavy weights" to endorse the candidates. There are obvious pros and cons in doing so. WP will need LTK's presence to boost the profile of Png Eng Huat since he is basically starting from zero. As for Desmond Choo, PAP has sent KBW and HSK to lend support to him. There are pros and cons in such tactic. You don't want to crowd out the media space with LTK and PAP minister's faces while depriving the two candidates the media space which they badly need for exposures.

If Desmond Choo works hard enough during the campaigning time with the right strategy applied, I would not be surprised that he could give WP a tough battle which will end up with a very close fight. While many observers are predicting the result to be WP-60% PAP-40%, I would expect WP getting about 55% vs PAP 45%. I won't even be surprised if it ended up with a very very close fight between the two parties.

Goh Meng Seng


Anonymous said...

Oh my god, after you made so many people support you over the years to pursue opposition causes and now you claim you are non partisan.

You are like a valentino, going around to cheat women for love and thereafter claiming it is a one night stand.

Anonymous said...

your English, both written and spoken, is deplorable too. and it didn't came across to you that that's the reason why you lost persistently.

Anonymous said...

I think your political career is over.

you just wasted 10 years of work because of 1 year of shitty essays you put up here.

Anonymous said...

you don't talk about the ridiculous driver permit conversion programme between Singapore and China.

this system led to us giving foreigners the control over a potentially killer machine as the example on the Mai Chi Case illustrated.

You wrote about the election.

Now I know why you cannot make it in politics in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Obviously he is being paid to write analysis and to attack WP in all his analysis and now during the by-election. Can you believe him he is pro-opposition. He does not have a proper job and left his wife and daughter alone in HK. All his online posting are anti-WP and how he earn his living ? Must be paid by PAP to run-down WP and this is his job. Shameless person who is against singaporeans who want to have alternative govt

Anonymous said...

WP supporters can only accept positive comments, and that is why WP remain as opposition until today. Why not accept the feedback & do better then PAP?