Saturday, 30 June 2012

White Clouds Clearing For Blue Skies

Update 01 Feb 2013: Dr Koh Poh Koon having fun waving to empty streets and buildings

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White Clouds Clearing

For Blue Skies

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PM Lee

According to the Straits Times (29 Jan) PM Lee Hsien Loong has no doubt that Dr Koh Poh Koon, the PAP candidate for Punggol East SMC, would have won election had he been given enough time to get to know the residents.

“Unfortunately he didn’t have enough time and so he didn’t win in Punggol East,” PM Lee was reported to have said.

This simplistic explanation for Dr Koh’s loss to Ms Lee Li Lian of the Workers’ Party has drawn much derision on the internet.

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LionCity Re-election

Kudos to the Lioncity State that successfully staged an exciting, peaceful, though a surprising outcome but fair re-election for its Punggol East constituency. This show-case a high standard of democracy for Asian countries to emulate.

As repported by its local media, the message is clear, from the voters: “Bread & butter solutions and Singaporeans First”. Regardless of party politics.

Both political parties put forth very good candidates this time around. As they all say, the choice is decided by the people.

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PAP suffers 10.83% swing in Punggol East by-election

It is true that by-elections put the governing party at a disadvantage. Voters are more likely to express their unhappiness without risk of toppling the government. Nevertheless, the 10.83% swing against the People’s Action Party in Punggol East (polling day: 26 January 2013) is one that must worry the PAP.

If we superimposed this swing on the results of the May 2011 general election, the PAP would lose its majority. It would find itself with only 42 seats in Parliament. Opposition parties would hold 45 seats.

In addition to George Yeo, other current ministers who would then have lost their seats include Ng Eng Hen, Josephine Teo, Lim Swee Say, Vivian Balakrishnan, Lui Tuck Yew and K Shanmugam. Two new ministers appointed in 2011 — Heng Swee Keat and Tan Chuan-jin — would not have made it either.

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Punggol East By-Election 2013: The Aftermath and the Analysis
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By now, most of Singapore would know that WP's Lee Li Lian had won the Punggol East by-election and soundly thumped PAP's Koh Poh Koon.

WP won 54.52% of the votes, whereas PAP could only capture 43.71% of the votes. WP won by a very convincing margin of 10.81%.

This is compared to when WP had won 43.71% of the votes in General Election 2011 and PAP had won 54.54%.

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The Punggol By-election – A watershed

The Punggol by-election came and went in two weeks of furious hustling. The Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian triumphed in what is largely a gentlemanly contest between four political parties. The victory of Workers Party has turned a new page in the history books and set a new milestone in the landscape.

The by election, the second in as many years, will be remembered as a watershed in Singapore politics.

Opposition cooperation and unity? - “The WP insists on going its own way … not because of arrogance or lack of respect for other parties, but to prevent history from repeating itself, and from letting people down again,”

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Punggol BE Results : What it tells us

For anyone unfamiliar with the situation on the ground at Punggol East, the results of the by-election is indeed surprising. The popular opinion at the start of the contest was it would be a close one but the PAP candidate was likely to win. Instead of this, we see a 11% swing away from the PAP candidate.  A hypothetical 11% swing in the GE 2016 will not only take the PAP votes to below 50%, it is likely to take away its majority in parliament - the PAP will have to seek coalition partner from the opposition to stay in power or be kicked out - I don't think the leaders in PAP slept well yesterday. While a win by WP was always a possibility, the wide margin was a big surprise for many.

I will cite a few of the minor reasons that might have helped to contributed to the margin before I get to the major ones. One commonly cited reason on the mainstream media  is this is a by-election so voters are more willing to vote for the opposition. The by-election effect was cleverly used by Chiam See Tong in the 1990s who tried to turn the opposition weakness to strength by returning the PAP to power on nomination day during general elections. If you look at the election results when this strategy was used, it probably account a few extra % of the votes because most people expected the PAP to be returned to power anyway given  its dominance.

How many people voted for the PAP in 2011 instead of the opposition because they fear it would lose the general elections? If you look at the 1992 by-election held shortly after the 1991 election when PAP lost an unprecedented 4 SMCs, there was a swing of 4% to the opposition[Link] - it was also a 4 corner fight but the main opposition party (SDP) running at that time was led by Chee (before his sacking from NUS and hunger strike) was far stronger that the one running during the GE 1991 (JPS)  yet we saw only a swing of 4%.

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Some Explanation Required

Luck had nothing to do with the stunning victory at Punggol East, a margin of 3,182 votes or 10.8 per cent of valid votes is not something to be sniffed at. Lee Li Lian deserves the accolades for her hard work, covering every one of the HDB blocks in the ward with the help of volunteers and party members.

And we are forever indebted to the courage of the Punggol East voters, who were not seduced by the temptations of the short term giveaways, and focused on the future of their children's generation.

As for the big time loser, he should have listened to his wife's counsel, "You want to help people, but people don't want you". 

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Punggol East by-election hindsights

The dust has finally settled in Punggol East – Workers’ Party (WP), Lee Li Lian, won with a 54.54% margin, over PAP’s Koh Poh Koon who took home 43.71% of the votes. The other candidates were Desmond Lim and Kenneth Jeyaretnam who scored 0.57% and 1.2% respectively.

The date for the by-election admittedly came as a complete surprise, as it came on the heels of the AIM saga where the development of IT systems was given to PAP companies, which in this case was AIM. The problem will of course rear its ugly head when the PAP incumbent(s) lose his seat in the ward. The company can serve its notice and terminate its software arrangements with the town council. Such arrangements were viewed in the negative sense as high-handedness reeking of cronyism.

If the PAP lost, the question which arises is whether the town councils will be left high and dry. Thus, it wasn’t surprising that the spotlight has now fallen on the management of the Punggol East town council now that it has fallen into the opposition’s hands.

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The Wave of Change that Swept Singapore: Punggol East By-Election 2013

The Worker’s Party won the Punggol East by-election by a convincing margin of 10.81% to win 54.52% of the votes. This is a 13.5% improvement from their performance at General Election 2011. By all accounts, this is a very solid win by the Worker’s Party. On top of that, Ms Lee Li Lian is the first woman to win a by-election in Singapore.

To be very clear, this win by the Worker’s Party is a very strong and powerful message that will resonate and reverberate throughout the whole of Singapore. It will send a very powerful signal to all Singaporeans that what we’ve been harbouring in our thoughts all along – that they’ve been treated unjustly – is proven right afterall. And one that a large multitude of Singaporeans feel as well.

This will ignite the passion and vigour among some Singaporeans to search within themselves to identify with what they truly believe in, and to stand up and make their voice known, together with the growing number of Singaporeans who have taken online to speak up, and increasingly, propose strategies and changes for a better Singapore.

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Broken Trust, Broken Policies

Like a sore loser, the PAP quickly attributed its Punggol East defeat to some act of God – the “by-election effect.” We lost, not because we are incompetent but because of forces beyond our control. It appears to be a term (in the league of “ponding” and “freak flood”) PAP spin doctors conjured up to save face, and to mollify its dismayed, hardcore supporters.

PAP would be deceiving itself if it genuinely thought it lost because of the “by-election effect”.

Punggol East voters, among which 76% are below 50 years old, had sent the ruling party a very clear message on behalf of the middle/sandwiched class. The pro-opposition supporters had voted tactically by channeling their ballots to the Workers’ Party, and had stood their ground despite the fatter and juicier carrots dangled by PAP this time round.

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Whither Singapore?

After the results for the Punggol East by-election was known, former Minister George Yeo made a 2-word post, “Whither Singapore” on his Facebook. Within hours, there were hundreds of comments.Whither is used in poetic language. It means ‘to what place’, or ‘to what end or purpose’. I suppose George Yeo meant where Singapore politics is heading towards, given the unexpected defeat of a previously safe SMC seat by a stunning 10.8% margin to the opposition in a 4-corner fight.

When I plunged into politics 2 years ago, I never expected myself to be actively involved in a General Election and two by-elections, plus being a keen observer of a closely fought Presidential Election; all in less than 24 months. In election-deprived Singapore, we never had such election excitement since independence.

Many firsts had taken place. For the first time, a GRC was lost to the opposition. The GRC is viewed by many as the impregnable fortress of the PAP, designed to make it difficult for the opposition to take down teams that are each led by 1-2 ministers. PAP also received its lowest share of the popular votes since independence. Three months later, for the first time, a presidential candidate favoured by the ruling party was elected by less than majority votes, and with a shocking razor-thin 0.3% margin as well. Then, after losses in Aljunied GRC and in the Hougang by-election, the PAP lost for the first time since independence in a multi-corner fight to a female opposition candidate.

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A Victory of the People

The people of Punggol East have given democracy a big boost in Singapore. Their vote was not a vote against the government but a vote for a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We need to remember that the opposition is as much a part of the government as well as the party in power.
The results of the Punggol East by-election is a wake-up call to all political parties. The Reform Party and the SDA provided the opportunity for the people of Punggol East to demonstrate their political maturity.

Unfortunately they were both struck down by the hammer and lightning and lost their pants! Their unfortunate loss should be seen as the sacrifice to showcase the wisdom of the residents of Punggol East. The SDP very wisely listened to the voice of the people and did not fall for the bait of the PAP.

The election results of Punggol East is a beacon of hope for democracy in Singapore. The Workers Party will do well to be aware that the seeds of defeat may be sown in times of victory while the PAP can take comfort that the seeds of victory may be sown in times of defeat. As long as the focus of the political parties is on the welfare of the people, policies will benefit the people. What is badly needed in a world that is becoming more competitive is a sharing and pooling of ideas. No one party has the monopoly on wisdom.

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Punggol East contest: a tipping point

What is one to make of the Workers’ Party victory in Punggol East?

Its candidate Lee Li Lian got 54.2 per cent of votes beating People’s Action Party’s Koh Poh Koon who got 43.7 per cent out of 29,415 valid votes cast.

First, that voters like loyalty, preferring candidates who stick by them over a new face. Ms Lee who got 41 per cent in the General Election in 2011 against the PAP’s Michael Palmer’s 54 per cent, improved her margin by about 13 per cent, or nearly 4,000 voters

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Workers’ Party sizzling victory at Punggol East by-election – a tight slap in the face for PAP?

WP also gained a total of 13.5% of the swing votes from GE 2011′s 41 per cent to last night showing  of 54.5% – all within a mere 18 months and without really having to walk the ground too much.

More significantly, the overwhelming  victory showed that Singaporeans are warming up to the Workers’ Party as the most trusted credible opposition party and would vote for anyone whom they have placed.

The victory was also significant as it has busted the myth that in a 4-corner by-election battle, PAP would have the upper hand but clearly this time round WP has provened otherwise.

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By-election result makes desire for change clear

The result of the by-election is an unambiguous sign that the people of Singapore want to see democratic change. The people of Punggol East have strongly indicated that they need to have their voice heard on matters affecting them. It is important that the PAP pays heed and clears the obstacles to the improvement of our country.

The PAP’s campaign neglected to engage with the real concerns affecting the country. Its approach to the voters was characterised by warm sentiments devoid of real proposals for change.

Singaporeans are increasingly committed to the idea of a Parliament that works to safeguard their interests. It is a word of warning that the status quo is becoming untenable for our day-to-day lives and a plain verdict on national policies.

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My post-Punggol East dilemma

When the results of the Punggol East by-election came out, I was surprised – as much by the result, as by my own response.

First, there was the unexpected margin that the Workers’ Party candidate received – something that surprised even her own leaders.

Then came what seemed to be a slightly alarming thought: Would I see the People’s Action Party lose power in my lifetime?

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Punggol East – We are not daft

Whoever thinks that the voters, in general and those in Hougang or Punggol East, are daft got to get his head check. The maturity of the voters, mind you they may not have first class honours or top doctors or scholars, but many are very well educated, with tertiary education.

And many are definitely smarter and more qualified that the plane loads of FTs being unloaded to replace them. At least our local FTs are carrying genuine certificates and qualifications from world class universities and from our world best primary and secondary schools with very well qualified and trained teachers.

The pattern of voting in Punggol East was simply brilliant. It was reported that in every polling station, the WP won. There was no exception or enclave where there was stronger or weaker support for the PAP or WP. Translating this, it means the support is from the overall majority of the voters.

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Singapore Government loses control of narrative

Last weekend's by-election in Singapore has inflicted the fourth electoral blow in a row to the ruling People's Action Party.

The PAP had already lost six seats to the opposition in the general elections of May 2011, collected only just over one-third of the vote in the presidential election of August 2011 (still enough to win against a divided opposition), and then failed to win back an opposition seat in a by-election in late 2012. The loss of the Single Member Constituency of Punggol East is a particularly cruel blow because it is a new constituency created only two years ago, and according to the former PAP MP for the constituency, this was done precisely because the PAP regarded it as safe territory.

What went so wrong that the PAP could only win 43.7% of the vote last Saturday? The electorate abuts other opposition electorates, but this was not enough to make a dent in 2011, when the PAP won the seat handsomely with 54.5% (coincidentally, exactly the same percentage won by Lee Li Lian of the Workers' Party on Saturday against the PAP and two other opposition candidates).

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Why PAP lost again

It looks like PAP has not learned from the lessons of 2011 GE.

LTK is right. The PAP of old is not the PAP of today. George Yeo made a very good comment that when an organisation get going for many years, the rot starts to set in and what they do not "realise" will set its doom. He wanted to be the "reformist" voice inside the Party but unfortunately he got booted out.

In the sixties up to the early eighties, PAP has a very strong dedicated grassroot base whose support begin from ordinary folks in the mass anti-colonial movement. In the early days, PAP filled many ordinary folks with just simple education backgrounds to be candidates. Later the Barisan Socialis made a critical mistake when it withdrew from running in the elections and so gave PAP a free hand. PAP responded by running country with excellent economic policies that uplifted the people's standard of living. With a strong grassroot base, it continued to enjoy continuous support from the populace.

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Why the PAP lost so badly in the Punggol East by-election

The results of the Punggol East by-election surprised everyone. People expected a very close fight. No one expected PAP, by its own standards, to be thrashed by such a wide margin. Even the professional forecasters who make a living offering odds thought that the PAP was going to win by 1000 votes.
What then went wrong?

When Michael Palmer resigned his seat, the Prime Minister saw no urgency to call for a by-election. He said that there were some national issues to be settled first. On hindsight, perhaps he should have stuck to this initial intention. Unfortunately he did not.

When the Singapore Democratic Party announced its intention to contest the by-election and made known the seriousness of this intention by going on walkabouts and house-to-house visits in impressive style, the PAP changed its mind.

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History in the making in Punggol East

Never in its more than fifty years of history has the PAP experienced such a humiliating defeat as in the recently concluded Punggol East by-election. Although the PAP candidate Dr. Koh Poh Koon had diligently emphasised during the campaign that the by-election was about local issues, the Punggol East voters have nevertheless unmistakably delivered a clear message that this is a referendum on the PAP's performance since GE 2011. PM Lee Hsien Loong and his millionaire ministers cannot continue to be oblivious to the massive anger of the people over the undemocratic policies of the PAP Government.

The PAP brought in an eminent colorectal surgeon to be its candidate thinking that his professional status would be an added advantage in winning the heart of Punggol East voters. As a credit to him,  he did not exhibit any of the PAP arrogance in his approach to the voters and in fact was quite down-to-earth in presenting his election programme to them which was aimed at ameliorating their livelihood and living conditions. But the PAP leaders did not consider it important that Dr. Koh was a newbie parachuted into the constituency which may have been a handicap in his effort to commune with the voters, especially the elderly women.

With the PAP big guns coming in to give much needed support to Dr. Koh in his campaign, it would have been reasonable to suppose it would have improved his chances to win. Especially with PM Lee extolling Dr Koh's eminent qualities and promising that, if elected, he would make him a political office holder. PM Lee might have overdone it as this could have a counter-effect to the more down-to-earth Punggol East voters and cut no ice with them.

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WP: How to win together

The WP have no secret manual for success. It is really up to the rest to swallow their pride and do likewise, then we shall all be winners.

This is what they mean by a First World Parliament. Well it doesn't exist anywhere else. Just like the PAP was once upon a time a very unusual political party and government.

The PAP must stop being superficial. What you do isn't as important as showing a genuine change of heart in truly putting the people first. When you do that you will find us surprisingly patient. The PAP might have to sack quite a few of its self seeking members to achieve this heart transplant. There is no way to win if you have lost your moral authority. And if you are stupid enough to fix the WP, I am sure citizens will make sure you have no opportunity to even repent. It is far smarter to compete with the WP in parliament than to fight us everywhere outside.

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Town Councils Graded On Corporate Governance
From Desmond Lawrence Sylvia to AHPETC
Social Media Takes On Town Council
Town Council Grants And Surplus Issues
From Adverse-Opinion, Ceiling-Cleaning to Unlicensed-Fair