12 commentaries on GE2015 that you might want to read

A scene at Fengshan Primary School on Nomination Day.
A scene at Fengshan Primary School on Nomination Day. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - One week has passed since the Sept 11 general election, Singapore's 12th since Independence.

It will go down as the election that confounded political pundits - most had expected the opposition to gain ground but instead, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) got a resounding 69.9 per cent of the popular vote and took back one constituency from the Workers' Party (WP).

Political observers have proferred theories on the results. Here are 12 you might want to read.

1. 10 reflections on GE 2015

An SG50 logo on the ArtScience Museum. Singapore's jubilee celebrations have been touted as a possible feel-good factor in the PAP winning over voters at the 2015 General Election. PHOTO: ST FILE

Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lists the 10 factors that worked in the PAP's favour in securing a "surprising and extraordinary victory".

Among them - the SG50 and the Lee Kuan Yew effects, as well as the opposition's ill-advised move to contest all 89 seats in Parliament, which Prof Koh felt contributed to the fear of a freak election.



2. Liberal reflections on loss and acceptance in GE2015

Lawyer and playwright Eleanor Wong says that the overwhelming mandate received by the PAP confirmed that Singaporeans were comfortable living under a monolithic government.

But that does not mean they don't want democracy at all, she argues, raising the possibility that Singaporeans want a unique brand of democracy that is compatible with an entrenched aristocracy.


3. Silent majority's roar of support for PAP

In ST opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong's first-cut analysis, she believes that the silent majority - contrary to what had been said online and among the intelligentsia - was crucial in delivering a huge vote swing back to the PAP.

Likening the 2011 General Election to the "equivalent of a hissy fit from voters unhappy over rising costs, infrastructure overloads and immigration," she explores the reasons behind the PAP's victory this time, but warns the party against returning to its top-down, arrogant ways.


4. The end of the 'new normal'

Rather than succumb to a simple extrapolation of trends to decide if the PAP's convincing win is now the "new normal" of Singapore politics, ST editor Warren Fernandez argues that understanding what voters are saying - and taking into account their concerns - at each election is the key to securing support for the long haul.

Crucially, GE2015 saw a remarkable confluence of factors and events - some engineered, others pure circumstance - that are unlikely to be repeated. The moral of the story? In politics, what goes up can also come down.


5. A strong mandate for a changed PAP

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the rest of his Ang Mo Kio GRC team being hoisted on the shoulders of PAP supporters after their victory on Polling Day. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The PAP's impressive gains stemmed from its own hard-earned effort, an improved party image and softer policies, says ST Editor-at-Large Han Fook Kwang.

"Singaporeans are a pragmatic and sophisticated lot and they know instinctively what serves the country's interest best," he argues, and the party which best learnt its lessons from GE2011 was duly rewarded.


6. The PAP needs a new social compact with Singaporeans

Vocal former PAP MP Inderjit Singh, in a 3,700-word-long Facebook essay on Sept 17, shares his analysis of what went right for the ruling party at GE2015.

He also went on to outline "underlying issues the PAP should not ignore", and urged the party to develop a new social compact with Singaporeans, comparable to what the pioneer generation of leaders had achieved.


7. The strategic voter in the 'new normal'

Singaporeans queuing up to vote at Pei Chun Public School in Toa Payoh on Polling Day. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Like many analysts before her, Professor Chan Heng Chee, chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology, did not see a landslide victory for the PAP coming.

And that, in her opinion, is due to the rise of the strategic voter - an electorate today that is better educated, more discerning and pragmatic enough to use their vote strategically to push for the outcome they wish for.


8. Good communication strategy powered PAP win

GE2015 was a lesson for those who believe in the power of communication and brand strategy, writes Mr Marcus Loh, the head of public and analyst relations in Asia Pacific for data analytics firm Tableau.

He outlines three key factors in communication that contributed to the PAP's win, which included leveraging effectively on its manifesto, themed "With you, for you, for Singapore", and the astute way in which it harnessed its portfolio of brand personas in the party.


9. Quiet transformation of the PAP

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the PAP's new GE2015 candidates at the launch of the party's manifesto on Aug 29, 2015. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

In turning back the pro-opposition tide, the PAP has successfully demonstrated its winning combination of a sterling track record and responsiveness to voter anger at the last polls, says ST associate opinion editor Lydia Lim.

While the ruling party took a risk by putting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the front and centre of its campaign, the quiet changes in how it has reached out to residents on the ground over the last four years to forge a more favourable image - one that is less arrogant and more willing to listen than before - also deserves credit.


10. After PAP's big win, avoid pitfalls of dominant parties

While dominant political groups in South-east Asia, such as Indonesia's Golkar (The Party of Functional Groups) and Malaysia's BN (National Front) are weakening, the PAP's performance in Singapore demonstrates that dominant parties have a future.

Dr Norshahril Saat, a Fellow with the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, writes that the increase in support can be seen as a vote for the ways the PAP has reinvented itself since GE2011. Some of the key ingredients in its winning strategy: humility, being in touch with the masses and the promise of leadership renewal.


11. A second chance for reform

The PAP's stunning election victory does not mean its remaking is complete, argues journalism professor Cherian George. Whether it succeeds in becoming the lead author of the second half of the SG100 story will hinge on whether it manages to "get the politics right" and what it does with the mandate it has just been given.

He writes that the party will need to continue with its match-winning social policies, but also advocates for government leaders to abandon hardline tactics in favour of embracing the principles of an open government, which include institutionalised, transparent mechanisms for government bodies and more protection for dissenting views.


12. Social media and the eclipse of the opposition

Dr Walter Theseira, a senior lecturer at the Singapore Institute of Management's UniSIM College, believes that the rise of social media, while disrupting the Government's control over the national narrative, may have also eclipsed the importance of voting the opposition into Parliament.

This is because social media has provided an effective means for individual Singaporeans to speak their views directly to those in power. The opposition, he argues, can no longer justify their existence simply by claiming to be a voice for the people, who have since taken that responsibility upon themselves - thanks to social media.