19 February 2009

Election in 2009? The Chances Involved

The recent updates to the electoral rolls and polling districts suggest the possibility of an election sometime in the near future, perhaps in this year. This will probably place it within the current financial cesspool.

So what chances are the PAP taking by having it at this moment? There are numerous incidents which reflects unfavourably to the governing authority. From Mas Selamat to GST increase to ministerial pay hike to the enormous losses of our sovereign wealth funds, there are plenty of issues that can invoke the ire of Singaporeans.

Indeed, these are rich fields for the opposition to harvest on. It wasn't too long ago that these happened, and if the opposition reminds the people properly, the voters will no doubt possess some dissatisfaction of the PAP when making their choices. However, the emphasis here is on "properly", because there is the danger of harping on it so much that it becomes another James Gomez incident.

Nonetheless, I think these factors pale in comparison with one single concern of the people: the economy. Like it or not, economy is always a chief factor in the voter's mind, and this is not restricted to Singapore. Even in the recent US election, the economy is the top priority in many people's mind. The polls showed both candidates close in the race until the economic diarrhea. The only exception I can think of in recent times is the 2007 Australian elections, where the excellent economy failed to secure Howard his re-election bid, but then again there were numerous other elements (some related to money) that overrode this factor.

This is the key strength of the PAP, and this economic crisis gives them a good chance. After all, with their financial security at stake, most people are less likely to take risks. Indeed, the PAP has a very legitimate claim that they have excellent track record in managing the economy, and this argument will sell rather well at this time. After all, I can easily imagine people saying, "Who cares about what our sovereign wealth funds have lost, so long as I can have my job secure and my investments recover?"

Furthermore, the PAP has a powerful argument that, in this crisis, there should be no dilly-dallying in parliament. Bills which will help the economy ought to pass in the greatest efficiency and the presence of opposition members in parliament will only serve to hinder the speed at which help reaches Singaporeans. Certainly, the opposition can counter by saying that any good policies will not face any delays and bad policies are better not passed. But this is a dangerous line to tread because all this while they have been telling the people to vote them into parliament so as to scrutinise such policies. I'm not arguing against the merits of having opposition in parliament; I'm merely highlighting the delicacy of the issue.

And needless to say, any special financial assistance by the government to the people will reflect well on the PAP during the election. In fact, it kills two birds with one stone: instead of a recession package and an election package later on, they can combine both into one.

I'm not sure what the opposition can do with regards to the economy. One possibility is to draft up a detailed and viable economic plan that will help Singaporeans in this current recession, and publicise it thoroughly and extensively. Even if it doesn't get passed in parliament - and it probably won't - it will show that the opposition is not there just to oppose. They can propose sound and viable ideas on their own, and therefore their presence in parliament won't jeopardise the country's route to recovery. The point is to let people know that they are well-equipped with economic knowledge, though usual problems (e.g. media bias) remain.