“Politician” Alex Tan released a Facebook note that illustrates just how far some parties and many of their members have to go before Singapore can have a genuine choice at the polls. There’s lots of lessons for budding young “opposition” politicians out there.
1. The note describes juicy details of Alex’s confrontations, altercations and rejections with SPP, SDA, NSP, WP, SDP and RP in his desperation to run in GE 2011. But nowhere does it describe his concern for residents of Ang Mo Kio, nowhere does it show he cares about them and wants to help them, nowhere does it talk about any grassroots work or community work that he has done for them.
The result: Alex got 30% of the vote, ie the “ugly” opposition supporters only.
In other words, the majority of voters are quite discerning– they know when a politician is serious and genuinely wants to help them, and when the guy just has an axe to grind.
The lesson to be learnt is– being anti-PAP is not enough, wanting to speak up for Singaporeans is not enough. If you really want to be elected, you must be sincere, you must care about residents, you must spend time with them, you must do groundwork years in advance.
Else, don’t bother running for election. You are wasting your time and the voters’.
2. Alex is a very very angry young man. Most of his “blogging” life seems to have been spent on flaming the PAP, fighting running battles with PAP supporters.
Such a shame, the waste of energy. Instead of directing the energy towards developing himself as a public speaker, to understanding how politics works, to doing community work to raise his profile within his target constituency, etc he chose to engage in flame wars with YPAP.
The lesson to learn is– winning flame wars gain you nothing. Posting the most number of anti-PAP remarks (under different monikers) gains you nothing. Being able to play cat and mouse with YPAP supporters bent on deleting your posts gains you nothing. It is much better to spend time developing yourself as a politician.
3. He describes his last-minute decision to run in Ang Mo Kio and being subsequently played out by RP, which resulted in him having to raise $96,000 online almost overnight to get the election deposit. He also describes how his campaign was under-manned, under-planned and underwhelming.
What I find amazing is that he was able to raise the deposit at all. That has to go down as a record.
Notwithstanding this, what is the point of running an ill-prepared and under-planned campaign? All the money, all the blood sweat and tears– for what?
In the US candidates raise money well in advance of their campaigns. They start asking for donations, putting their campaign staff together two years before the election. In fact, the party sometimes looks at how much a candidate has raised to decide whether they should even enter him in their nomination race. Because they know political campaigning is a serious business. It requires serious planning, serious money, serious effort and commitment.
Singapore politicians have to learn this. They have to learn that political campaigns cannot be run on a shoestring budget. They have to understand that one seeks donations BEFORE an election, not AFTER an election. They have to understand that donations are NOT just for the purpose of funding election deposits, but they are meant to fund an entire campaign.
A Note To Alex (If He Reads This)
I admire your guts at willing to stand up against the PAP. I also admire your ability to raise so much money so quickly and put together an election campaign so quickly. But one does not get into politics and stand for election just because one is full of anger and really hates the PAP.
I would suggest that you spend the next four years understanding what politics is really about, what the purpose of politics is, what you really need to do to get elected. I hope you will be able to change and improve yourself in these four years, that you can find a party whose philosophy you understand and believe in, and you can change from an angry young man to a serious politician.