Top photo by Edwin Koo.
AHPETC. AHPETC. AHPETC.
Besides this word flooding the media, here are five things about the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) election campaign so far:
1. Prime Minister and PAP Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong is PAP's biggest electoral asset:
Many Singaporeans are by now familiar with this campaign photo of PM across the island.
If you happen to be one of the more than three million Facebook users in Singapore, you will probably have come across PM Lee's Facebook posts.
With close to 850,000 FB fans, PM Lee is the real influencer (not the type that bloggers call themselves) online. He has seven times the number of fans that his two most popular (online) colleagues (K Shanmugam - 78,000 FB fans, Tan Chuan-Jin - 57,000 FB fans) have, combined.
For instance, a simple video of a walkabout with his Aljunied team has been viewed more than 120,000 times. Easy peasy.
Posted by People's Action Party on Sunday, September 6, 2015
In fact, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to argue that PM Lee's personal popularity eclipses that of his whole party. The PAP is cognizant of this — PM Lee has appeared twice out of the four days that PAP has organised their rallies so far.
In the first party political broadcast, PM Lee was also the leader fronting the party's campaign message on television. Contrast this to Workers' Party (WP), who showcased its East Coast GRC candidate and President of WP's Youth Wing (Daniel Goh) instead.
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2. PM Lee is running a competent, and somewhat staid campaign — and that's an advantage for the PAP.
No major gaffes from the party's senior leaders. No quotable quotes that seize the population's attention as an indicator of the PAP being out of touch.
Responding to a question from the media on whether the political temperature in 2015 is proving lower than 2011, PM Lee declined to give a reading but said that "cooler is better" for a clear evaluation.
In past GEs, the party would get distracted, seize on a certain personality (Tang Liang Hong in 1997, and James Gomez in 2006) and play up the topic to become the single issue dominating the GE campaign.
You can sense that PM Lee is in full control of the party's campaign this time, however. He thinks that the PAP has made its point on town council management, and he wants to move on from focusing on the WP's town council issues.
"People have understood that to be the government of the country, first you must demonstrate that you have that capability and you've got to run your town council well... So we've made our points. I think the voters are clear-eyed, they know what this is about. They can make up their minds. I think we can leave it to them", he told The Straits Times.
That is until WP chief Low Thia Khiang decided to talk about the Punggol East SMC accounts on Saturday...
3. It's gloves off for DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam this GE.
Check out this statement that DPM Tharman made at PAP's rally last Saturday. This is probably in reference to WP chief Low's rally speech on Friday that the government may raise goods and services tax (GST) rate after GE.
"[W]hen I listened to some of the scaremongering that is going on, not only do they avoid talking about the taxes that they will have to raise if their proposals were to be put into practice, but they also scaremonger, talking about what the PAP will do after the elections. That is just cheap".
DPM Tharman has usually kept a lower profile in the previous GEs and by-elections. For instance, it was DPM Teo Chee Hean who fronted the Punggol East by-election.
This time, DPM Tharman is putting his "international finance" statesman reputation to good use. Last Saturday, we saw how DPM Tharman tore SDP's policy proposals to shreds, and in such a classy manner too.
He took the example of France, a model SDP used in advocating their universal healthcare system proposal, and explained that it would mean $850 in taxes per month for someone earning $3,800.
This is however not the first time DPM Tharman is using his financial expertise to tackle the opposition.
In one of the last parliamentary sittings in August, DPM Tharman also crossed swords with WP chairwoman Sylvia Lim over AHPETC financial status. That was what he said,
The examples that I have given are of the areas that the auditor has qualified, do strike me as a Finance Minister as being fairly serious examples. There are not minor infractions which you put a coat of paint over. They are very serious examples.
4. The hot seats — East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC — are not generating much heat in the media.
Compared to the previous GE's personalities in the hot ward of Aljunied GRC — George Yeo, Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Chen Show Mao — Minister Lim Swee Say and NCMP Gerald Giam just do not exude that "X-factor" that the media craves.
But it doesn't mean that the contests in the East are not closely fought. An indication of WP's support are the crowds they generated during their island-wide tour. For instance, the crowd in Nee Soon on a Friday was definitely cold. This was not the case for the turnout at East Coast GRC. And this occurred on a Sunday night when many Singaporeans have to return to work the next day.