Monday, May 09, 2016

Reflections on Bukit Batok By Elections

Reflections on Bukit Batok By Elections

Right from the start, the deal looks just too good to be true. Nobody has talked about David Ong's scandalous affairs but PAP imploded the issue on their own accord.

Curiously, Bukit Batok was just carved out from Jurong GRC during last GE2015. Then, PAP announced quickly that it will be sending an Indian candidate who had contested in Aljunied GRC to become its candidate for this BE.

It is just ALL TOO PERFECT and a GOOD deal for any aspiring opposition politician. Dream conditions BEST ever to happen in Singapore's context.

A By-Elections due to PAP scandal, opponent is a minority candidate in a dominantly Conservative Chinese ground.

My first instinct is, this is just too good to be true. PAP isn't that generous and its track record has shown that it is a petty and vindictive political party. Thus, the only logical deduction or conclusion is that, this must be a trap bait.

Well, whatever it is, we decided NOT to have multi-corner fight as an opposition. But under such suspicious circumstances, I also believe that we shall practice caution.

I checked on the demography of BB and found that it has an exceptionally high proportion of Indian voters. (It has 11% Indian voters.)  It is no wonder PAP is willing to field an Indian candidate. Well, isn't this ironic for PAP to accuse SDP of practicing "Racial politics"?

It would be PERFECT if SDP has sent Prof Paul Tambaya as its candidate because he will be effective in contesting the same group of voters against Murali.

Bukit Batok had a love hate relationship with SDP. It used to support SDP strongly back in the late 1988 and 1991 GEs when SDP was under the leadership of Chiam. However, it is also precisely due to this linkage to SDP, it has turned against SDP when Chiam left SDP under ugly circumstances/parting.

Thus my initial assessment is that Dr Chee is not exactly the right candidate to contest in BB due to this past baggage. It would be great if Prof Paul is fielded by SDP instead and he would surely have a fighting chance to win when he is short of such past political baggage. This was the basis of my first statement on this By-elections. If Paul is to contest, I will personally campaign on the ground for him because there would really be fighting chance to win.

But SDP has decided to field Chee. With due respect, I would think that this is really a strategic mistake. SDP and Chee is basically "showing hand" in this BE, without a proper assessment of the chances of winning.

True enough, the past baggage of Chiam came back to bite Chee. Whether we like it or not, this dagger is sharp and went deep down right into Chee's heart.

To be fair, SDP has a fantastic and wonderful team of back room operation team. It has run the logistics and media machinery very well. This is the real strength of SDP. Even WP political machinery cannot match SDP's backroom ops.

However, the reality is that Chee's leadership has only a track record of under 40% for the past two decades. SDP has never crossed the 40% barrier ever since Chee took over the leadership. (It is important to strike above 40% because it will keep PAP at their toes as this will make them vulnerable in these seats)

While many people would encourage Chee and SDP, citing this as the Best result Chee has achieved under harsh circumstances, but the hard truth and cruel reality is that JBJ has faced even more difficult and harsh smearing by PAP and its controlled media in the past but he has proven himself to be the true fighter who could bring WP to cross 40% and even won seats.

Whether we like it or not, whether we think it is FAIR to Chee or not, PAP has successfully decimated Chee's political credibility so much so that it actually affects the whole SDP.

And sometimes, I feel that it is really Chee's own doing in which he has given more than enough ammunition to PAP and its media to smear him.

For example, just for this BBBE, Chee has made quite a number of strategic erros.

1) The mismanagement of the Chiam meeting and saga is pretty glaring. While there will always be closed door negotiation but if it is agreed that this meeting should not be publicized or made known to the press, then SDP should keep to that promise. Furthermore, I hate to say this, although I dislike what Lina Chiam has done to Chee during this BE, but Chee must realize that he needs Chiam more than Chiam need him. Chiam is basically the KEY to his FUTURE political success and reconciliation should be achieved at all cost. Never mind on who is right or wrong in the past or present, but public Perception is everything in politics.

For SDP to come up with such conditions for Chiam, that is really a non starter. If there is no sincerity to strike a deal, then there should not be a meeting in the first place. The worse part is, when you come up with such unacceptable proposal but later, seen to milk on the perception that there is reconciliation process, then it is no wonder Lina Chiam is unhappy. She most probably feel that she has been taken for a ride or made use by SDP!

Thus, whatever excuses SDP come up with, any person with a reasonable mind would regard SDP in an extremely bad light, though we may feel that Lina Chiam is just too much to throw such a big dagger at Chee right at such critical moment of BBBE.

2) The focus on Town Council management has been overdone. The over promise of making Bukit Batok as the BEST Town actually backfired on Chee's credibility. No sound mind would believe in that promise basically because we know that to achieve that Best Town promise, you need funding and millions of it. Such funding is controlled by PAP via PA.. People's Association's CCC which will decide whether funding will be given to ANY upgrading projects proposed by any TC.

3) Having said that, swing voters know pretty well that there will be offset or trade off if they were to vote for opposition. Opposition must give them a solid reason for them to vote for them, making compromise or sacrifices on their HDB upgrading. Thus, the focus is about how good you will be as a REAL Check and Balance force in parliament. How good you will be as an MP to scrutinize PAP's policies in parliament. Chee might have that ability backed by his set of policy papers but yet, sorry to say that, he screwed it up when he REPEATED the mistake on MOM's statistics. If you have shown that you cannot digest, grasp or understand simple statistics as such, would the educated swing voters believe that you could debate and scrutinize PAP's policies in parliament properly? Some may believe that but most level headed person would not believe that.

I have tried my best in my own little ways to help SDP during the BE and I have witnessed Chee's family going all out to support him. However, when the dust settles, I feel extremely bad for Chee and his family. His wife and children have suffered much when he was fighting this war with no sign of victory around. When I read commentaries congratulating him and urging him on to continue fighting, I feel angry as well as sad. These people have unknowingly given Chee false hope.

We have to come to terms that Chee isn't going to go anywhere further than the current result due to many reasons and factors. Whether we like it or not, the Chiam baggage will always be on his shoulder if he didn't want to clear it off with sincerity.

He has given his best under the best circumstances any past and contemporary opposition politicians could dream of but yet, unable to cross that 40% barrier. No matter how we look at it objectively and rationality, it could only mean one thing, whether we like it or not, he has been tainted beyond hope. He is just unelectable.

This is this cruel but honest view I have with regard to Chee. As I have said, SDP has a fantastic support team behind but as long as Chee is leading SDP, all their effort may just come to nothing.

I guess for the sake of Chee's family, it is time for him to take a back seat and allow others to take SDP to greater heights. 5 years is a lot of time for a human being, 20 years of his prime has been spent in this opposition fight. It would be too cruel to ask him to continue to fight a destined lost war without much concerns of the sacrifices made by his family members.

Goh Meng Seng


The Independent has put up my article and there were some unhappy comments from the hardcore opposition supporters. I have replied as follows:

I thank you for all your comments here. I just need to make some simple clarifications.

Many people brag about the "high swing" SDP Dr Chee got from this BBBE. This is the common mistake people made in statistical analysis. Statistics must be analysed along with the context of the data.

For example, would you cry victory when someone improve from 12% to 30% in a SMC fight? Nope. Why?

We always say first 30% of opposition votes are the hardcore votes. It is a no brainer that one could increase easily from 12% to 30% under normal circumstances.

30% to 40% are the opposition sympathizers' votes. Need a bit of persuasion but still manageable.

But the Key critical 10% comes form 40% to 50% which are mainly the votes from the Neutrals. That's where we need a lot more persuasion to win over their votes.

Thus, it is totally irrelevant to compare the vote swing of BBBE from 26% to 39% to the vote swing achieved in PEBE which is from 41% to 55%. The core group of voters converted are of totally different nature with different levels of difficulty.

My whole point is simple. It may be a "good result" or even "best result" from Chee BUT let's face it, it was achieved under the most perfect situation you can find in Singapore's political context. It could only mean that Chee has PEAKED.

Throughout all his 20 plus years of leadership, SDP has never crossed 40%, never able to convince the neutrals. That's the harsh reality.

To urge him to carry on, giving him false hope and false prophecy, you will be making him and his family to make more sacrifices for absolutely nothing in sight.

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. Don't ask who I am as you know who I am. I may not be perceived as great as Dr Chee but I have crossed the 40% twice and led a party to cross 40% for two GRCs and one SMC. Yes, I am not that great but I am short of that critical baggage that will prevent me from convincing the Neturals.


Anonymous said...

Goh Meng Seng, very well written. I almost agree on all the points you have made.

But having said that, I would still think that whether it is SDP's Paul Tambyah or even someone from the WP contesting instead of Chee Soon Juan, maybe it will cross 40% but PAP will still win.

Why? For 3 reasons as follows.

1. Having witness the Aljunied TC saga, who do you think voters would prefer to serve them and to write their appeal letters to govt agencies, PAP MP or opposition MP?

2. WP's "star" MP Chen Show Mao, despite his impressive CV before entering politics, has a lacklustre performance in Parliament. With that, voters may have been disillusioned somewhat by even well qualified candidates from opposition.

3. WP's worse performance in GE 2015 than in GE 2011, a reflection that their standard in the eyes of voters have dropped. And if WP standards have dropped, what more the rest?

So due to the above, from now on, PAP will most likely repeat the GE 2015 or BE 2016 outcome in future elections and by elections. Unless the opposition become strong, united and ready to be govt.

Anonymous said...

"I checked on the demography of BB and found that it has an exceptionally high proportion of Indian voters."
Goh Meng Seng

Hey Goh Meng Seng, where is that info available? Is it in the public domain? Or you got it from insider source?

Admin said...

The data on voters profile was published on newspaper. I have added the table here.

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

Goh Meng Seng, please continue to pressure SDP on this.

I know many opposition supporters will scold you, but it is necessary. It affects the credibility of the opposition as a whole.

SDP needs a change of leader before it is too late.

Otherwise SDP is doomed in all seats they contest, making it as good as a PAP walkover.

All PAP does everytime is to remind everyone of CSJ's past and it is VERY effective. SDP loses every fight because of the baggage their leader carries. Unlike other opposition party chiefs, CSJ does not pull votes for SDP, he repels them! No matter how good the candidates are, nobody looks at them and they end up losing. Middle ground voters are concentrating on Chee's character because PAP has changed the theme of the election to Chee's character!

Anonymous said...

The so-called ambiguous game of words by all the so-called crystal ball experts. Only the voters themselves knew who and the manner they wanted to vote. Other than that everything is just a guessing game?

A young man who once lost his way, but has since trying to make it right but ended up not so right.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the Bukit Batok cow? Has the moo noise stopped?