“On the other hand, Saturday’s GE was a big success (yet again) for the PAP. Winning 81 seats out of 87 is a landslide, by any yardstick.” – Anthony Oei in The Straits Times Forum, May 11.
Anthony’s letter to ST forum (‘Reality check: It was a solid victory’) claims that Singaporeans have overlooked the fact that last week’s General Elections was a step backwards for the opposition parties.
According to his letter, the PAP achieved a solid victory in the recent elections because they have managed to secure 81 out of 87 seats in the parliament. This, he argues, is a solid victory by any form of measure.
He adds that another evidence of this resounding victory is the fact that there will only be one opposition party in parliament — that of The Worker’s Party, whereas there was previously two.
Letter draws ridicule in the online Straits Times forum
Anthony’s letter, published in big and bold fonts in the Straits Times forum caught the eyes of many readers, who criticized his argument at the online ST forum.
While even PAP politicians have admitted that something needs to be done in order to correct the present resentment against the ruling party, Anthony’s arguments discounts several facts that have emerged from the 2011 General Elections.
Firstly, the General Elections should be seen as a step forward for the opposition slate in Singapore, simply because they have contested in all constituencies with the exception of Tanjong Pagar for the very first time. Even the Tanjong Pagar was supposed to be contested — the opposition team was disqualified because of a technicality in time.
Even if the opposition parties have lost in most of these wards, they have gained important political experience that will be only useful for the next General Elections. Anthony’s judgment that because these opposition candidates have lost, and thus should be conceived as a step back for them, takes a too myopic view of the matter.
Furthermore, the opposition parties have made significant leaps in accumulating more votes compared to the last elections. The final tally of votes in Singapore sees about 60% of Singaporeans supporting the PAP, and 40% for the Opposition. This is a considerable decrease in overall support for the PAP compared to the last elections in 2006, when they garnered 66.6% of total votes.
Workings of the GRC system
The reason that the PAP was able to secure 81 out of 87 in parliament — Anthony’s measure of success — rested largely on the effects of the GRC system in Singapore. Although close to a million people in Singapore have voted for the opposition, they are only represented by 6 individuals in parliament.
Compare and contrast this to the other 60% of Singaporeans who have voted for the ruling party and are represented by 81 members of parliament. To some, this seems a travesty to the notion that MPs are representative of the people’s voices in the parliament.
How could 6 individuals in parliament represent accurately the diversity of close to a million people?
The GRC system should not be taken as a measure of ‘success’ for any political party in a period of General Elections, because it is afterall a political instrument that marginalizes certain players from the onset. If one wishes to derive a judgment, absolute figures rather than number of seats in parliament should be used.
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