With the start of post-Circuit Breaker phase 2, I think it is safe to say that the incumbent government will be dissolving parliament anytime now and calling for elections. I have been wrong before, so I can only hope my prediction is spot on this time. Anyway, when this happens, we are likely going to witness the first truly digital election campaign.
Covid-19 has created this eerily sci-fi post-apocalyptic world, one where children are playing at playgrounds with masks and face shields on. It was a tough sight to stomach. Will we look back years from now and say, “I recall a time we didn’t have to wear masks”? I digress. Covid-19 has meant that rallies will not take place, per the Election Department’s recently issued guidelines. This is really bad for the opposition. The rallies were a powerful medium for opposition to canvass support from the public; it was like the Trump rallies. Where else could you go to openly slam the PAP government and its policies, even if it was just for a cheap thrill?
Political parties have taken to Zoom and Whatsapp to connect with supporters. The Workers’ Party has even created a virtual rally site on mobile game Animal Crossing. I heard Tik Tok, too, was being utilised. All these means that this election will go down as truly the first social media-heavy election campaign.
Key battlegrounds and faces to watch
The upcoming election comprises 31 constituencies – 17 GRCs and 14 SMCs. A total of 93 seats in Parliament up for grabs, and around 2.6 million people are eligible to vote. The areas contested are where the main action takes place. Some of the upcoming key battleground areas are:
- Aljunied GRC, helmed by Pritam Singh’s Workers’ Party. During GE2015, WP won by barely one percentage point.
- West Coast GRC. Progress Singapore Party (PSP), led by former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock, is contesting this GRC. Mr Tan has unveiled his first slate of six candidates, including former RSAF colonel and ex-CEO of Hong Leong Asia, Mr Francis Yuen Khin Pheng, and Mr Brad Bowyer, a media business owner who was served a POFMA notice.
- Potong Pasir SMC. Singapore People’s Party party chairman Jose Raymond, is hoping to snatch Potong Pasir back. The constituency was a stronghold of former MP Chiam See Tong who was in charge for 27 years between 1984 and 2011.
- Bukit Batok SMC. Singapore Democratic Party chief, Chee Soon Juan, has announced that he will contest this constituency.
As for the PAP, besides our cabinet ministers and slate of current MPs, PAP will likely introduce the following list of new candidates; these are the folks most political watchers pay attention to, because they are likely to get voted in and hold major portfolios:
- Changi Airport Group executive and former RSAF pilot, Poh Li San
- IMDA CEO, Tan Kiat How
- People’s Association CEO, Desmond Tan Kok Ming
- Former group CEO of the Silver Generation Office under the Health Ministry, Yip Hon Weng
- Ex-CEO, future primary care and director of community engagement at the Health Ministry, Ng Ling Ling
- Ex-Facebook executive, Alvin Tan, who is now with LinkedIn
- KPMG principal adviser, Yap Kwong Weng
Already there have been mudslinging going on with a PAP MP taking a swing at WP leader, Pritam Singh, for his apparent support for playwright, Alfian Sa’at. For those unfamiliar, MP Tan Wu Meng wrote up an opinion piece calling out Pritam’s supposed support of Alfian Sa’at, the latter whom Wu Meng has painted as anti-Singaporean (my interpretation). Rice Media characterised it as some sort of character assassination in a satirical story.
Minister for Law, K Shanmugum, has gone on the record to defend Wu Meng and saying that he is raising legitimate questions. Alfian, in the meantime, has responded by saying that the attack was in ‘bad form’. Some in my network of friends have already expressed that this looks like heavy-handed measures by the PAP to hit at its opponents. The move seems like a calculated one to rile up the opposition and rally staunch PAP supporters towards the threat of the WP.
Conclusion: What the elections will mean for investors and Singapore watchers (some political punditry)
The virus situation has delivered a stronger hand for the ruling PAP, and I think no one expects anything other than a near sweep by the PAP. A Business Times story noted that PAP tend to perform better at elections during economic uncertainty. For most conservative Singaporeans, the opposition has really not developed to a state where it can challenge the ruling party and effectively run the country. Singapore has been governed by the PAP since 1959, and it has done well in propelling the country into a regional economic powerhouse.
Thus, the best result for the economy would be a continued PAP mandate and an adequately empowered opposition, to provide alternative voices in Parliament and play a watchdog. Former PAP MP and presidential candidate, Tan Cheng Bock, will be the one to watch this election. He seemed to have gotten the support from our prime minister’s brother, Lee Hsien Yang. This brings us to an issue that will probably be used as a weapon by the opposition: the Oxley Road saga. Covid-19 will also brought up this election, with the PAP stressing how it has made Singapore safer, while the opposition will likely talk about the virus mismanagement with the migrant community.
May the best candidate win!