5 observations of the People’s Action Party election campaign so far
At half-time, 5 things we noticed besides AHPETC.
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.
PAP Team Aljunied Walkabout – 5 September 2015From Secretary General Lee Hsien Loong:Caught up with the dinner crowd at Serangoon Market and Food Centre yesterday. Many of the hawkers had been resettled there from Taman Serasi (near the Botanic Gardens). I was happy to see them again, because the market used to be in my ward long ago. They gave me a warm welcome, and told me they hoped the PAP would win Aljunied back. – LHL #GE2015 #PAP4SGGet breaking news, live updates, and exclusive content, on the go, please click: http://bit.ly/pap_link_up
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.
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.
As Straits Times Editor-At-Large Han Fook Kwang wisely pointed out in his commentary (“GE half-time report: No killer goal, back to basics”), “it’s now more important to avoid missteps and to reconnect with voters”.
Which means that the other silent contest that has been going on long before the GE was called assumes greater importance. This is the battle to gain every single vote by candidates working the ground and making those house visits and public appearances…For those who have been working the ground regularly, meaning in between election years, it’s about making that reconnection on the home stretch.For some of the more hotly contested places, such as East Coast GRC and single-seat wards like Fengshan and Potong Pasir, the results can turn on how well you do this.
5. Minister Chan Chun Sing is the stand-out performer in the hustings so far.
Minister Chan has risen above the rest of the fourth generation PAP leadership — Heng Swee Keat, Ong Ye Kung, Tan Chuan-Jin, Ng Chee Meng, Lawrence Wong — to be the most prominent young PAP leader.
Of course the caveat is that Ministers Heng Swee Keat, Tan Chuan-Jin and candidate Ong Ye Kung have not delivered their maiden GE rally speech yet.
In the first day of PAP’s rally, Chan delivered his own mini National Day Rally address: 5 min Malay speech, a 7 mins and 20 seconds Chinese speech, and a 11 min English speech. The fire and passion in his speech is something that reminds you of PAP rallies of yore.
Here’s a quick summary of his fiery rally speech in quotes:
“We have walked fifty years together. More than 50 years! The PAP has led this country for more than 50 years but we are not resting on our laurels. Never! We never rest on our laurels! Our country may not be perfect, but we are determined each and everyday to make it less imperfect, not for ourselves but for our children, our grandchildren and for generations to come”.
This appears to be Chan channeling President Barack Obama’s energy in his landmark 2008 speech on the African Americans, titled “A More Perfect Union” — “This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.”
“We are determined, even with our finite resources, we will continue to be special. That we will have a home that will special. Because our people will be proud to call Singaporeans, not because of what the country can give us only, but also what we can contribute to the community and the country. And that is what will make us special as Singaporeans.”
This reminds one of the late US President John F Kennedy inaugural address in 1961: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”.
Here are the rest in sound-bites:
1. “50 years on, we have tried so hard to build a special country for ourselves and for our children, why should we let go of this because someone else promise us to be average and normal? No! Never give up the country because of this.”
2. “Many think just because you give money you can solve the problem. No. If you have walked the ground and talked to community leaders, you’ll know better. They need care. They need concern. They don’t need people to make grand speeches.”
3. Alluding to SingFirst’s platform which includes a monthly $300 allowance for children and elderly, he said, “Some of them promised you $300 per month. No questions asked. I say, please don’t insult my residents. You think what? They are here to be bribed? Is this an election or an auction?”
Netizens seem to agree, with Chan’s rally video attracting more than 5,500 views so far, after DPM Tharman’s speech and Minister of State Teo Ser Luck’s folksy address.