Saturday, August 20, 2011

Singapore's Presidential Election 2011 to road test Freak Election Result theory, George Yeo Effect

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel should take more than a passing interest in the Presidential Election (PE) campaign because the Tan they will swear allegiance to will be voted in exactly a week from today.

This campaign is likely to road test the Freak Election Result theory. Indeed, a recent Yahoo poll showed that the candidate implicitly backed by the MIW did not come out tops.

You have to be living on another planet not to realise by now that the four PE candidates appear to fall into two distinct camps in a one-versus-three arrangement.

However hard they mouth their declarations of independence, the career legacy that is the basis for them standing in the first place is also their bugbear.

Dr Tony Tan's camp must have read and mulled over sentiments expressed on the Internet about his candidacy. The former Deputy Prime Minister's intimate links with the MIW continue to stoke online calls that the PE should be used to send yet another signal to the system that all is not well following the General Election this May.

If this theory pans out, four in 10 voters would likely turn their backs on Dr Tan.

How the remaining 60% of the electorate vote next Saturday is a surefire way to start a conversation with strangers in the heartlands.

Supporters from the other three camps, viz Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Mr Tan Jee Say and Mr Tan Kin Lian, have used their underdog image as a war cry for Singaporeans to vote in a President who can bring a fresh set of ideas to the Istana (To foreign readers, this is the President's office off Orchard Road).

Dr Tan's prospects are not helped by the fact that Singaporeans know the MIW government will remain in power for the next five years, whichever candidate they support. Flawed or not, matching such logic to the poor awareness of what the President's job really entails gives the Freak Election Result theory more traction.

Furthermore, the scenario of a rogue government spending the reserves is theoretical and unlikely under the 12th Parliament. And if a second key is needed to unlock reserves, logic would state that the key master shouldn't be cut from the same piece of cloth.

The fence-sitters during GE 2011 who cast a vote for the MIW because of selfish self-preservation (fear of losing a promotion if the system "finds out" they voted against the MIW) or out of fear that they might wake up to an alternative government no longer have to worry about this.

Which box they cross next Saturday makes voting patterns for this watershed PE too complex to call even for the bookies.

This is no GE as the government will remain intact whoever wins. But lingering resentment from GE 2011 has made some Singaporeans wonder if the system needs another wake-up call.

To be sure, the MIW have, in my sense of the matter, scored several own goals since the May election. The party Whip must rein in members to avoid stupid episodes such as Penny Low's implausible excuse after NDP 2011 (where, pray tell, is the FB entry?) and foot in mouth situations by Dr Lim Wee Kiat (over minister's pay) and Vikram Nair's baffling remarks over election results.

Above all, screen the MPs carefully and ensure outgoing MPs do not end up compromising newbies by sacking grassroots members days before a GE. Outgoing MIW MP Chan Soo Sen did just that in Joo Chiat and this upset grassroots members who volunteered their time to serve him. It poisoned ground support and the MIW very nearly lost that seat.

Some people feel the PE is a waste of time and public money. We already have a competent government and fully operational civil service, bloodied and tested in crisis of yesteryear like SARS and economic recessions, to formulate and roll-out public policy. Singaporeans therefore find statements by PE candidates who want to be a shadow Minister for Whatever baffling, if not redundant and self-serving. No prizes for guessing how they will vote.

Like it or not, PE results will mirror how people feel towards the MIW since GE 2011.

Check the winning votes. Whoever wins might end up with the dubious reputation as the least supported Elected President in Singapore's history.

And check the percentage of spoilt votes too. What would this figure signal?

Unresolved questions over the National Service (NS) record of Dr Tan's son, Patrick, and the tactic by candidates like TKL to use National Service as a talking point to draw attention to his candidacy are some of the defence themes that will come our way during the PE.

As Dr Tan previously held the Minister for Defence portfolio, the other three Tans must know that questions raised over defence matters, particularly hot potato issues like the need for and duration of NS, may dim the former DPM's election prospects.

Dr Tan could also fall prey to what I call the George Yeo Effect.

Some voters may be convinced that Dr Tan is the best man for the job. They may believe that his character, credentials and potential are rock solid. But as in the case of former Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo, who lost his seat in the five-seat Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), the electorate's clamour for someone to champion their views may outweigh all other considerations.

The other three Tans must be streetwise enough to realise this. We can therefore expect them to harp on their independent and somewhat renegade streak during their campaign speeches.

One thing's for sure: Whoever wins will get a front row seat to the SAF Day Parade next year when Singapore marks 45 years of National Service.

P.S. For those who are wondering, I have not decided who to vote for as of today.


Anonymous said...

To serve, support and protect Singaporeans First ! That's the choice !

Anonymous said...

Key word for making the final choice is that the person is someone who is "truly independent" of the the current regime.

Anonymous said...

It is quite forseeable that Tan Jee Say will be President come August 28th, if the anti-PAP lobby unites behind him.

Tan Cheng Bock as an ex-PAP grassroots MP will split votes off Tony Tan. This could be enough to stop Tony but insufficient for Cheng Bock to win outright.

We should mentally prepare ourselves to salute Tan Jee Say!

Anonymous said...

It would be a mistake to think the anti-PAP lobby will rally behind TJS, or that TCB will only cream votes off Tony Tan. Am hearing quite a number of people I know, who voted against the famiLee on May 7th, declaring support for TCB