AHPETC issue not the key factor in vote swing against opposition

The commentary on Sept 20 presented a very astute analysis of the reasons behind the People's Action Party's recent electoral success ("Hopes for GE2020").

But I disagree with the theories on the vote swing against the opposition parties.

The furore over the management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and its finances has been repeatedly trotted out to explain the diminished vote share of the opposition.

If this were the case, one would expect to see a negative vote swing concentrated against the Workers' Party (WP), the central figure in the controversy.

The result showed that the vote swing went against all opposition parties, even those who were not involved in the AHPETC case.

In fact, the WP's losses were comparatively smaller than that of other opposition parties, making it the best-performing opposition party. This indicates that town council finances did not especially sway the confidence of voters within constituencies contested by the WP, given that most of the vote swing occurred in other constituencies.

We can, therefore, conclude that other factors, such as the quality of candidates and the strengths of their policy platforms, played a more significant role.

Moreover, it is unfair to question the "seriousness" of the WP's policy proposals. One should look at the depth of elaboration in the party's GE2015 manifesto, a 46-page document that explored various facets of policy and fleshed out the party's stand in great detail.

For example, the WP offered a well-reasoned and concrete road map for public housing, healthcare, education, transportation and electoral reform.

Moving forward from this election cycle, if Singapore really hopes to achieve a "politically more mature environment", it is worth exploring new avenues by which additional worthy opposition voices can be co-opted into parliamentary discourse.

Indeed, this is the spirit that has been endorsed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam ("Opposition 'can continue to contribute to Singapore'"; Sept 14).

Beyond the desired changes to the electoral system that were touched on in the commentary, I propose that the Elections Department look into the possibility of using fixed electoral boundaries, so as to ensure a greater connection between representatives and the electorate that will also reflect geographical and community identities.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'AHPETC issue not the key factor in vote swing against opposition'. Print Edition | Subscribe