21 August 2015

Steve Chia's and NSP's MacPherson Misadventure

National Solidarity Party's decision to contest GE 2015 in MacPherson SMC came as a surprise.

NSP's central executive committee had previously decided to leave it to The Workers' Party to fight the ruling People's Action Party in MacPherson SMC.

NSP President Sebastian Teo said that he initially thought that NSP should avoid three-cornered fights and should not contest in MacPherson. However, it changed its position on MacPherson after lengthy deliberations because it wanted to "keep faith with [its] supporters" and CEC member Steve Chia requested to contest there. In recent weeks, it seems that NSP leaders had received feedback and pledges of support from many residents in MacPherson.

Who is Steve Chia?
NSP's Steve Chia contested (and lost) in:
▪ Hong Kah GRC in 1997 with 31.0 per cent of the vote
▪ Chua Chu Kang SMC in 2001 with 34.7 of the vote
▪ Chua Chu Kang in 2006 with 39.6 per cent of the vote
▪ Pioneer SMC in 2011 with 39.3 per cent of the vote

Mr Chia's percentage of the vote gives the impression that he has improved with each passing general election. Unfortunately, it's the effect of a rising tide. A tide of discontent, of change.

Shifting Political Mood
The political mood has been shifting against PAP — 74.4 per cent in 2001, 66.6 per cent in 2006 and 60.1 per cent in 2011. Actually, the political mood was shifting against PAP far more than these numbers suggest.

Only about one-quarter of all the eligible voters could vote in 2001; the remaining three-quarters lived in constituencies that were not contested. The proportion eligible to vote doubled to about one-half in 2006 and increased further to more than 94 per cent in 2011. Given a choice, most opposition parties would prefer to contest where they perceive PAP to be weakest. Had the opposition engaged PAP in other constituencies or in more constituencies, their percentage share of the votes might have been lower.

Are the Invitations Sincere?
Mr Chia should reflect on why it appears that some voters in MacPherson SMC want him to contest there inasmuch as he last contested in Pioneer SMC, not MacPherson. Are these people sincere? Will they really vote for him on polling day?

Multi-Cornered Contests
The political truism is that anything other than a straight fight benefits PAP, notwithstanding Punggol East by-election.

It seems that neither Mr Chia nor NSP learnt anything from the four-cornered contest in Punggol East SMC by-election in 2013, in which both Kenneth Jeyaretnam of Reform Party and Desmond Lim of Singapore Democratic Alliance ignored political acumen and even common sense, and suffered humiliating defeats.

Nor from the four-cornered presidential election in 2011, which probably would have given us a different president had it been a straight fight.

What Should Voters Do?
PAP supporters should sit back and cheer their good fortune.

Opposition supporters should vote for the candidate who is more likely to win MacPherson SMC. I suspect this is very unlikely to be Mr Chia and he should consider himself lucky if he does not lose his election deposit.

Opposition supporters in other constituencies where NSP is contesting have a more difficult choice. Should they vote for NSP?

Blessings In Disguise?
There might be a blessing or two in NSP's and Mr Chia's ill-advised adventure into MacPherson.

First, it opened erstwhile NSP Secretary-General Hazel Poa's eyes and she didn't stay around at NSP any longer than it took her to quit the party. NSP is not the same party that it was in 2011 when Ms Poa, Tony Tan, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Nicole Seah contested under its banner; they are no longer with NSP.

Second, if The Workers' Party contests and wins in MacPherson (and elsewhere), it will move Singapore along the very necessary goal of eventually having just two, or maybe at most three, dominant political parties and having an alternative to PAP.

Third, if The Workers' Party contests in MacPherson and loses and in the process voters inflict a heavy defeat on Mr Chia similar to that suffered by other opposition candidates in Punggol East in 2013, it will reinforce the message that anything other than a straight fight with PAP is pointless.

This article was updated on 22 August 2015 at 3:45 pm

No comments:

Post a Comment