29 January 2013

RP's and SDA's Waterloo at Punggol East: Implications

Several political parties and independent individuals salivated at the prospect of contesting the Punggol East by-election.

But many people said that the by-election should be left to People's Action Party and The Workers' Party to contest.

Singapore Democratic Party heeded the call.  So did the two independent individuals.

But The Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance did not, and went ahead to contest.

In the end, RP received 353 votes and SDA received 168 votes, representing 1.20 per cent and 0.57 per cent, respectively, of the valid vote cast.  Both performed abysmally and lost their electoral deposits.

Political Reputations
Even prior to nomination day, few people regarded either RP or SDA to be political heavyweights.  They were the two opposition parties receiving the lowest percentage of valid vote cast in GE2011, far behind the others by quite a wide margin.
The almost complete rejection of RP and SDA by Punggol East voters left the political reputation of the two parties in tatters.

And because RP and SDA were represented by their leaders — secretaries-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Desmond Lim Bak Chuan, respectively — the result raised questions about their political acumen and left the political reputation of both secretaries-general in tatters.

Future Multi-Cornered Contests
The public remembers the painful but valuable lesson it learned from the 2011 presidential election.  Tactical voting is crucial in a multi-cornered contest.  Voters have to consider the possible outcomes, and decide which outcome is of paramount importance to them.  It is often more important to forgo voting for a preferred choice and instead vote for another (acceptable) party, if it will help block a third party from winning.
The ill-advised participation of RP and SDA in Punggol East by-election exposed not only their vulnerabilities but also their political standing with the electorate vis-à-vis WP's. The glaring disparity spells immense danger for both parties in the next general election.

While the opposition parties may want to avoid multi-cornered contests in their constituencies to the extent possible, they may no longer fear the participation of RP or SDA or other weaker opposition party in any multi-cornered contest.

The consequence may be that, as the stronger opposition parties grow even stronger over time, they can afford to ignore weaker parties such as RP and SDA when discussing among themselves where they should contest, and push them (the weaker parties) into distant third place in multi-cornered contests and condemn them to eventual political irrelevance and oblivion.

Singapore Democratic Party was very wise to stay away from Punggol East.  In the process, it gained political goodwill and avoided having its political stature and appeal tested against those of WP.

As for RP and SDA, despite their brave and defiant words, their leaders must surely rue their decision to contest Punggol East by-election.  It was not the right battle nor the right time.  It wasn't even their battle.  They should have listened, but they didn't.  It was a disastrous misstep that could doom them and their parties.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly, both idiots refused to listen to the ground and contested meaninglessly. Now both not just lost their deposits but reputation as well. RP and SDA should be ignored for future elections and I just want to see NSP, SPP, WP and SDP on a straight fight with PAP.