It’s shaping up to be a humdrum by-election in a forgotten town, if the Hougang rally crowd reaction this Saturday is anything to go by. No surprising, because no one has really explained the significance of the Hougang by-election to voters.
TOC reported: “The most striking observation throughout the rally was the reaction of the crowd. About 8,000 people turned out during the rally, but they were significantly quieter than rally-goers during the 2012 general elections. Despite multiple attempts to rally the crowd, most notably by Mr Giam during his speech, much of the audience failed to respond to the speakers. Much of the cheering seemed to have come from WP supporters and volunteers near the front; the back ranks of the crowd were noticeably quiet. The crowd only came to life when Ms Lim and Mr Low took the stage — and during certain pointed remarks aimed at the PAP. Even Mr Low had to encourage the crowd to cheer for Mr Png when it was his turn to speak, and even that did not result in much greater enthusiasm.”
Maybe– just maybe– the people are just tired of elections, with this to be the third election for them in the space of a year.
WP is still using its “slam the PAP, promote a First World Parliament” strategy. PAP, on the other hand, is fighting this election with free porridge, free TCM clinics, even free hearing aids.. But surprisingly, no free HDB upgrading.
To me, neither strategy seems particularly effective.
WP’s strategy is beginning to taste like old wine in old bottles. PAP, on the other hand, doesn’t see that very few voters care about free porridge or TCM clinics, that it is its economic policies that have hurt the people.
Already a lot of voters are jaded and believe that their vote will not change things one way or another, because one more or one less WP MP in Parliament doesn’t change things– and indeed, one more or one less PAP MP won’t change things either.
No one has explained to them the significance of this by-election.
This by-election is not about electing an MP to speak up for Hougang voters or even choosing someone to take care of Hougang. I’m pretty sure both men will take good care of Hougang, and both men will also speak up for Hougang voters.
This election is about signalling. What message do Hougang voters want to send to the PAP Govt?
A vote for PAP tells us that Hougang voters believe PAP is on the right path, that their policy changes since May 2011 have adequately addressed the people’s concerns.
A vote for WP, on the other hand, tells the PAP that it needs to do more, that its policy corrections are still inadequate to meet the people’s demands, that it has still not done enough to address the cost of living and other issues.
The question is not whether Hougang is for sale, or that Hougang is a beacon of democracy in Singapore, or even the Hougang Spirit (whatever that is). WP needs to explain clearly to voters that one more MP for WP means a lot more than one more MP for PAP, and that while PAP MP’s may speak up for them, it is all NATO, for they will never vote against the Govt for any policy or shoot down any Budget, Bill or Amendment.
WP needs to show voters that if they vote PAP into Hougang, they will lose the their ability to pressure the PAP Govt into making more changes, because the PAP will assume the people are satisfied with what they’ve done so far.
WP must show voters that while this is a local by-election, the implications of their votes will extend far beyond 2012, as it will determine whether PAP continues its iron-fist grip on power and takes the people for granted, or if we can have a truly representative democracy that can pressure the Govt to change, and not just a sea of (useless) alternative voices.