The Straits Times
Published on Jan 28, 2013

Opposition win due to a 'general election effect'?


THE People's Action Party (PAP) lost to the Workers' Party (WP) by a wide margin of 11 percentage points in the Punggol East by-election last Saturday ("WP sweeps Punggol East with 54.5%"; yesterday).

The possible reasons are:

First, the PAP's baby bonus scheme was too little, too late. Young couples either said "no, thank you" or "thank you very much" and then went on to vote for the opposition.

The recent announcement to double the MRT network by 2030 garnered a similar reception.

Second, what happened was a "general election effect" and not just a "by-election effect".

Voters want a stronger opposition in Parliament and took their cue from the watershed general election of 2011.

The new normal in Singapore politics continues unabated.

Third, voters have become much more discerning.

The much-feared effect of a split opposition vote did not materialise at all. The Reform Party and the Singapore Democratic Alliance garnered only 1.8 per cent of the total votes cast.

The PAP must do some more soul searching and come up with changes that address voters' concerns, from housing, transportation and health care to cost-of-living issues.

The pace of change must be accelerated.

Patrick Low