Monday, May 21, 2012

Hougang By-Election: WP vs PAP V

The first round of battle between WP and PAP in Hougang BE has ended.

This little By-Election has escalated into a fight between WP vs PAP, instead of a fight between Png Eng Huat vs Desmond Choo.

I am not quite right in saying that this is WP vs PAP. On WP side wanted it to be Low TK vs Desmond Choo whereby Low TK puts up the most powerful attack on Desmond Choo's assertion of his good work in Hougang, accusing Desmond Choo of using taxpayers' money for his own political work. If you have watched the whole WP rally (either on the ground or via CNA Live Streaming), you will notice that Low TK has the longest speech. His speech was split into two parts, first part in Teochew just before Png's speech. He became the anchor speaker after Png has spoken.

There was something intriguing, Low TK was seen moving around the stage on the background while other speakers were speaking. I have never seen Low TK so nervous before and definitely, if there were to be any last minute coordination to do, as the chief of the party, he should have asked others to do it on his behalf.

The crowd at WP rally is reasonably large, though it is much smaller than GE2011. However, the passion and enthusiasm are lacking. These are worrying signs. WP MPs and speakers have generally avoided talking about Yaw-gate. Pritam attempted to criticise PAP for making Yaw-gate as an issue by going through the history and list of fallen MPs from PAP side. However, that doesn't mean that WP could get away from Yaw-gate that easily.

Low TK has lost the first opportunity to make a clear apology for the misjudgement in fielding YSL to succeed him in Hougang. He has only apologize for the inconvenience caused but not on the bad judgement made in selecting YSL. If Low TK would have apologize solemnly and taking a deep bow on stage, it would close the whole Yaw-gate chapter once and for all. But now, the doubts are still lingering in the minds of the middle ground voters.

PAP heavy weights have also missed their opportunities as well and committed some drastic mistakes.

PM Lee and DPM Teo have not backed up Desmond Choo's promise of keeping Hougang as SMC even if he won this by-election. This is only fair because it allows Hougang voters to judge Desmond Choo's performance appropriately and will have the option of voting him out if he underperformed. PAP asked Hougang voters to give Desmond Choo a chance to serve them, but they must also give the assurance that if they are not happy with his performance, they will have that option to vote him out.

PAP leaders and speakers have also made the critical mistake of accusing WP of not providing any "progress" to Hougang while they were the incumbent. It will only remind voters of PAP's unfair pork barrel politicking!

If PAP want to win, it must win over the minds, not the greed of voters. It must be seen as FAIR and JUST in dealing with resources for municipal improvement. PAP do not have a good track record in being Fair and Just in HDB upgrading and such. Unless PAP is ready to declare that it will play fair and provide Hougang the necessary funds for upgrading even if it loses, then it is right for them to harp on this issue.

In terms of performance of the two candidates, I would say that Desmond Choo is still performing better not only in his rally speech but also on his campaigning. He is playing the soft cards all this while.

WP will have to buck up and allow their candidate Png Eng Huat to highlight his strength, rather than his weaknesses. This is not going to help to try and put Low TK as the main campaigner. The hardcore supporters may continue to support Png because of Low but the middle ground voters may not buy that. They will want their MP to stand on their own feet.

Let's see whether there will have other surprises for the last few days of campaigning.

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. PAP has evolved from last GE. Their speeches are sharper and delivery has improved tremendously. Opposition parties as a whole will have a more difficult time fighting them next GE.

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