Sunday, 27 May 2012

Post "Hougang By-Election" - Update

Singapore: Bloggers Analyse Hougang By-Election

On 26 May, 2012, the Worker's Party (WP) once more defeated the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) at the polls in the by-election at Hougang Single Member Constituency in Singapore. The 10-day campaign had been closely watched not just by residents of the constituency, but by all Singaporeans.

Many felt that it would be a “report card” on the performance of the PAP a year after the 2011 general election where it had received its lowest vote share in history.

The PAP tried their hardest to win over voters, with their candidate Desmond Choo giving out free porridge at a temple, setting up free legal clinics and promising all sorts of upgrading work to be done in the estate. Even Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean stepped into the fray, doing his best to highlight the shortcomings of the WP and to question the ability of their candidate Png Eng Huat, asking why Png had not been chosen by his party to be a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) after the general election.

Hougang by-election. Photo from The Online Citizen
Hougang by-election. Photo from The Online Citizen

When Png replied that it was because he had indicated that he did not want to be an NCMP, a leaked copy of the minutes of WP's ballot for NCMP was published in the mainstream media showing that Png's name had been on the ballot sheet, although he had only received one vote. DPM Teo then took this opportunity to question Png's integrity. WP's Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang labelled DPM Teo's comments as an attempt to “sabotage” Png's campaign.

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The Press and the New Media

Dr Tan Cheng Bock

I can understand Low Thia Khiang’s outburst on the main press media for not being fair to the opposition because my team too felt the coverage of my Presidential election was also biased towards the government choice candidate.

There is nothing that those who opt to differ can do anything about what the main media writes.

So l decided to win support through t...he alternative media. It was an uphill task for me but l had to do it because I believed in my cause.

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DPM Teo urges WP's Low to move away from 'combative tone'

UPDATE 10.22AM: Updating with DPM Teo's comments 

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has urged Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang to move away from a "combative tone". 

Speaking on the sidelines of a People's Association community event on Sunday evening, DPM Teo was quoted on Channel News Asia as saying: "He had a very combative tone last night which really, really surprised. But I do hope that he will move away from the combative tone which he took during the by-election and work in a constructive way with the government." 

Earlier on Sunday morning, Low had said the Workers’ Party (WP) will "move on" from the recently-concluded by-election in Hougang to focus on upgrading the district. 

“The Prime Minister has said there are many pressing long-term issues ahead… and I think the Workers’ Party will move on from this election, and work together with the ruling party for the betterment of Singapore,” Low said. 

Speaking to reporters on Sunday morning on the sidelines of the party’s victory parade for Member of Parliament (MP)-elect Png Eng Huat, Low steered clear of responding to DPM Teo's statements the previous night.

After Low slammed "baseless attacks" that characterised the Hougang by-election campaign, Teo had said on Saturday evening that Low was welcome to take legal action.

Workers' Party Low Thia Khiang on Sunday talked about the party's focus after the Hougang by-election. (Yahoo!)

Instead Low, an MP for Aljunied, said his town council, now expanded to include Png holding co-vice chairmanship, will “start looking at things we want to do”.
“We are looking seriously at what we want to do on the ground, and what is most beneficial to the residents,” he said, stressing that upgrading the estate is his main priority.
PM Lee had said on Saturday that the government’s estate renewal programme will be extended to Hougang.

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We will move on: WP's Low Thia Khiang 

The Workers’ Party (WP) will move on from the recently-concluded by-election in Hougang to focus on upgrading the district, said its secretary-general Low Thia Khiang.

“The Prime Minister has said there are many pressing long-term issues ahead… and I think the Workers’ Party will move on from this election, and work together with the ruling party for the betterment of Singapore,” Low said.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday morning on the sidelines of the party’s victory parade for its candidate, Member of Parliament (MP)-elect Png Eng Huat, Low steered clear of responding to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s latest statements.

After Low on Saturday evening slammed "baseless attacks" that characterised the Hougang by-election campaign, Teo said Saturday evening that Low was welcome to take legal action. 

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Post Election Parade

Desmond Choo with the People's Action Party (PAP) convoy making the rounds around Hougang on Sunday morning, thanking residents for their support. (Yahoo! photo/ Melissa Aw)

By-Election "Local Issues" & "Result Not A Reflection" But Yet There Are 207 Sources of Both Local & Foreign Newspaper Reports

Singapore's ruling party loses by-election
Jakarta Post -
AP, Singapore | Sun, 05/27/2012 8:44 AM Ruling party: Supporters surround opposition party, Worker's Party candidate Png Eng Huat, center front, Saturday, May 26, 2012 in Singapore.

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Singapore's ruling party loses by-election as opposition keeps Parliament seat

AP foreign,
SINGAPORE (AP) — Voters have dealt Singapore's ruling People's Action Party its third electoral setback in a year, allowing the opposition to hold onto a Parliament seat in a by-election.

Election officials say Workers' Party candidate Png Eng Huat won 62 percent of about 21,700 votes cast in Hougang district. PAP candidate Desmond Choo received 38 percent.

The government called a by-election after the Workers' Party expelled lawmaker Yaw Shin Leong when he refused to explain allegations of personal indiscretions

Singapore's ruling party loses by-election - The Guardian
Singapore’s ruling party loses by-election as opposition keeps Parliament seat - The Washington Post
Singapore's ruling party loses by-election - The Seattle Times
Singapore's Ruling Party Loses by-Election - ABC News
Singapore’s Ruling Party Fails By-Election Test - WSJ Blog
Opposition party retains parliamentary seat in by-election in Singapore - Xinhua
Singapore's ruling party loses by-election - NPR News

Post By-Election Press Interview 

Change is coming: PAP's Desmond Choo

Beaten but unbowed, losing People's Action Party candidate Desmond Choo says that "change is coming".

Speaking to the media after losing the Hougang by-election, Choo said that he will continue his work in the single member constituency.

His Workers' Party rival Png Eng Huat won with a convincing 62.09 per cent of total votes. A silver lining though was that Choo came home with 37.91 per cent of total eligible votes -- a near three percentage improvement from last May. 

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Hougang by-election: PM disappointed but encouraged by result

Posted: 26 May 2012 2347 hrs 
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that he is disappointed that PAP's candidate Desmond Choo did not win the Hougang by-election.

But Mr Lee, in a statement, said he is encouraged that the PAP obtained 37.91% of the vote this time.

Mr Lee, who is the PAP's Secretary-General, noted that this improves on the party's results in the constituency in two previous general elections.

In 2006, the PAP candidate received 37.3% of the vote in Hougang and in 2011, 35.2% of the vote.


General Election 2011
By-Election 2012

37.91% - 35.20% = 2.71% and 8,210 votes - 8,065 votes = 145 votes

By-election over, refocus on long-term issues: PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the PAP rally in Hougang. PM Lee on Saturday night congratulated the Workers' Party and its candidate Png Eng Huat on winning the Hougang by-election. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Rare support: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shaking hands with a supporter. His party won just 38 per cent of the vote in a by-election, after public anger over housing and immigration. Picture: AFP 

AFP May 27, 4,25 am
AN opposition candidate has won by a landslide in a Singapore by-election as voters handed a rebuke to the ruling party.

The poll was widely seen as a referendum on the government's recent reforms.

The Workers' Party retained the seat in the district of Hougang, winning 62.09 per cent of votes cast despite having to fire the previous member of parliament over allegations of extramarital affairs.

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) received 37.91 per cent, the elections department said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other PAP big guns had gone all out to campaign for the ruling party candidate, Desmond Choo, but in the end failed to win control of the ward, which has been in opposition hands for the past 21 years.

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'We will win back Hougang in a future election'

04:45 AM May 27, 2012
"I called a by-election in Hougang constituency because the Workers' Party (WP) expelled the previous Member of Parliament, Mr Yaw Shin Leong, from the party, causing the seat to fall vacant.

The People's Action Party (PAP) fielded Mr Desmond Choo as our candidate. Desmond had contested in Hougang in the General Election last May. Even though he did not win, he continued to work hard in Hougang over the past year.

In this by-election, Hougang voters had to choose the best candidate to look after Hougang and represent them in Parliament. The PAP and Desmond offered Hougang a fresh start, a break from the last 21 years. Desmond promised to do his best, to work with residents to build a better Hougang.

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DPM Teo: Result does not reflect sentiment towards PAP 
27 May 2012
Ng Jing Yng

SINGAPORE - The outcome of the Hougang by-election is not a reflection of Singaporeans' sentiment towards the ruling party after the General Election last year, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after the results were announced - together with defeated People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Desmond Choo - Mr Teo pointed out that Hougang is a "very strong Workers' Party stronghold".

Reiterating that the outcome is "a reflection of the views of the Hougang voters", Mr Teo said: "The elections in Hougang are quite special. Hougang is not representative of the whole of Singapore necessarily. Each constituency is different. Hougang has its own characteristics. We did expect a very difficult fight."

Despite the loss, Mr Teo said that the party was "encouraged that more residents have seen and supported Desmond's vision of a new future".

Mr Choo, 34, said the results showed that there was "lots of work to be done". When asked if he expects to stand in Hougang again for the 2016 General Election, he would only say: "You'll definitely see me on May 28 starting work."

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PAP must rethink its approach: analyst

Political analyst Bridget Welsh said the Hougang by-election results were no surprise and said that the People’s Action Party had miscalculated in its campaign.

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore after Workers’ Party (WP) retained its Hougang stronghold with 62.09 per cent of votes on Saturday, she said, "Some of its leaders did not come off well. Attacks reflect poorly on the attacker ultimately.”

Welsh was referring to the campaign hustings, in which DPM Teo Chee Hean repeatedly questioned the credentials of WP candidate Png Eng Huat.

“The reasons are two-fold. The PAP tactics are outdated,” said the professor at the Singapore Management University.

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Low Thia Khiang slams 'baseless attacks' at WP

WP’s Low Thia Khiang accuses PAP of using the “carrot and stick” approach to “coerce voters from freedom of choice”. (Yahoo! photo) 

“Baseless attacks” and “character assassinations” were what characterised the Hougang by-election, said the Worker’s Party (WP) Secretary General Low Thia Khiang on Saturday night.

Speaking at the WP’s post-win press conference at the party’s Syed Alwi road headquarters, he said that there had been “several calculated moves” to “discredit” candidate Png Eng Huat by the People’s Action Party (PAP), and accused them of using the “carrot and stick” approach to “coerce voters from... freedom of choice.”

“PAP said this is an honorable fight, but... they used tactics to smear our reputation,” Low charged

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WP won't investigate leaked minutes: Low

Mr Low said that the party does not plan to investigate the matter as he believes that WP does not have any means to do so in the first place.

He said it's regrettable that the media, which in likelihood has the resources to better investigate the leak, has not dug out the perpetrator.

He said that, as a pillar of democratic society, this does not reflect well on the credibility of the media.

In answer to a question on whether they are worried that their members may be leaking confidential information to the media, Mr Low said he does not want to speculate on the matter.

"I don't think the media has identified the source in the first place, so I don't think I can assume it's from the party," he said.

He then invited the media to investigate the matter and get back to the party, since they were the ones who broke the story.

"I think there is one media who even interviewed the sources, so can you tell us who the person is?", he challenged the media.

The party also does not have any plans to do a post-mortem on the unexpected surprise sprung by one of its members Dr Poh Lee Guan, who applied for a political donation certificate despite the party saying there was no intention for there to be a second WP candidate for the by-election.

His action fuelled speculation that the party might not be united.

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More of the same for Hougang for another 4 years

Desmond Choo has improved his score from 35% to 38% in the by election. His strategy is working, albeit a bit slower than expected. But it is testimony that the same strategy will work and he will gain more votes in the next election.

And what would be in store for Hougang in the next 4 years prior to the GE? There will be two MPs, an official and an unofficial MP serving them. The latter would definitely work harder to want to win more voters to his side.

There will also be more of the same, more porridges will be served, hearing aids and maybe something better. And as for upgradings and queues for more govt goodies, subsidies and handouts, it will be business as usual. 

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Workers' Party gathering? More like CNY gathering

SINGAPORE - 'Huat ah!' 'Yam.......Seng!' These were the calls that resounded throughout the usually quiet neighbourhood of Hougang Ave 5. Beginning at 7pm, a throng of supporters poured into the coffeeshop at Block 322.

These supporters came prepared. Their arms consisted of placards, flags, and even a giant hammer. At one point in time, one supporter showed up with a enormous drum and a trumpet.

From eight at night till one in the morning, these supporters kept up a never-ending chorus of chants and cheers. Whenever a PAP candidate appeared on the TV, they would block the screen with a giant placard that read 'Huat ah!', and drown out the TV with their own jeers.

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Hougang Wins

"they know what they want"
Never has journalism sunk so low.

There was Teo Chee Hean on the televison screen, calling out again if there were any more questions, obviously desperate to end the humiliation of facing the reporters after a landslide defeat. Candiate Choo, probably still trying hard to tear up one last time for the aunties, was just as anxious to get it over with.

There was Low Thia Khiang at the victor's press conference, getting warmed up as the questions built up, only to be interrupted mid-sentence for a special cut to Teo and Choo to respond to Low's annunciation of what is open knowledge: a campaign stained with old style tactics of character assassination, veiled threats and baseless attacks. Even the supporters from outside Hougang were not spared - traffic directions were warped to prevent them from reaching the political rally of their choice.
"I was hoping to see that as a society, we would move closer to our vision in our national pledge to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality.

But I feel disappointed that there were several calculated moves to discredit the candidate and attack the Workers' Party (WP). This by-election was characterised by baseless attacks, distractions, character assassinations, and veiled threats of using government resources as a carrot and stick to coerce voters."
Low rightfully credited the Hougang voters, who gave Png Eng Huat a convincing 62.1% majority, to "have a clear mind and they know what they want."

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The People of Hougang stand firm!

Despite the attempts at character assassination. ...despite the estate upgrading carrots....despite the biased mainstream paper coverage....despite sending in the PAP big guns, the PM & DPM, to campaign for their candidate...the people of Hougang did not waver.

In 1991 the Hougang people decided to vote for an opposition representative and they knew something the rest of Singapore did not know, they saw something the rest of us could not see. 21 years ago, before the Internet was widely used, before bloggers and the social media existed to pierce holes in our blindfolds so that we could see through the propaganda, the people in this small section of Singapore already saw a different vision from the rest of us.

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Hougang Spirit Wins!

And so Workers Party has won the by-election in Hougang. And it won respectably with 62% despite all the bricks and bats thrown their way by the PAP and mainstream media during the campaigning.

What does this win say of the Hougang residents? Nothing new, just what we have all been saying that they are one helluva courageous group of Singaporeans who stand unbowed before threats, bullying and even the temptation of freebies. And despite all the mud thrown at WP by the media and the MIW, the residents remained sharp and clear about who they trust and what is not trustworthy.

By voting for Workers Party yet again, the Hougang people have shown they place the nation above self. If they wanted to think only for themselves they would have voted for the PAP which comes with lots of goodies like upgrading. But most of them did not.

They voted with the big picture in mind – on what is best for the nation’s future, for democracy and for fair play. Hougang is certainly a good role model for the rest of Singapore in this respect.

With this reprisal of their brave act, Hougang folks have once again shown Singaporeans (and hopefully the PAP) what it means to be selfless and to have courage and integrity.

Hougang, I salute you guys! You are special indeed! May Hougang always Huat Ah!

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