National PAP vote share reduced to 60.14%
While opposition winning a GRC and having 6 elected members in the parliament is definitely significant, the reduction in its national vote share will also put some significant pressure on the PAP. In 2006 WP team polled more than 42% but lost in Aljunied. Five years later they won. In 2011, opposition parties have gained more than 40% votes in several constituencies including Joo Chiat SMC, Potong Pasir SMC, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and East Coast GRC. The close finishes will put PAP under pressure to ensure that the policies that they frame in the next five years must be absolutely well thought out and suitable for the common man or they will risk losing these close fought seats in 2016. Secondly, PAP must now deal with the policies targeted by the opposition including the housing and immigration issues amongst others because looking at the results, it is obvious that these matter a lot to the voters. Thirdly, PAP must choose its next generation leaders better because GE2011 shows that the voters will now analyse the candidates carefully and wont just follow anyone who contests under the lightning bolt banner. Marine Parade where PAP fielded Ms Tin Pei Ling in its team saw PAP's gain only 56.7% votes which is below its national average of 60%.
Aljunied dares to pick up the hammer in the high stake game
The much awaited contest in Aljunied GRC finally ended up with the voters picking the Workers Party 'A' team which included WP's veteran leaders Mr. Low and Ms. Sylvia Lim. While I am pleased that Workers Party won, I agree with the PM who said that the residents were being asked not just to select best representatives for themselves but were being forced to choose based on the much larger and abstract issue of whether they desired to have more opposition in the parliament to keep a check on the PAP government. However, I do not think that WP is at fault for pooling its resources and fielding an A team in Aljunied because generally the flaws in the GRC system (Which I have blogged about earlier) tend to favour the party in power.
About Cabinet Minister Mr George Yeo losing his seat
The WP victory in Aljunied GRC means that a couple of MPs who served the previous term as ministers will be out of the parliament for the next five years. This is not regrettable per se as many Singaporeans believe but in the specific case of Mr George Yeo, it is indeed unfortunate as he was a very highly regarded and much loved foreign minister. However, this should not have any direct impact on the Aljunied GRC residents. In theory, he was serving as Singapore's foreign minister, and he was working for his constituents in his capacity as a MP only. Hence, Aljunied residents will still have enough attention paid to their needs. Having a minister as your MP does not have any special significance as far as dealing with your local problems is concerned.
Ms Tin Pei Ling, Mr George Yeo and the GRC system
It can be credibly said that it is the fault of the GRC system that a popular and much experienced PAP leader, Mr George Yeo has been voted out while a young, inexperienced PAP candidate Ms Tin Pei Ling has been voted into the Parliament.
Firstly, the GRC system's winner takes all rule in the 5 member constituency meant that voters could not pick some candidates each from the two very formidable teams fielded in Aljunied. It is very likely that if Aljunied GRC had been 5 separate constituencies, it is likely that the opposition might still have won 2 or 3 but Mr Yeo would definitely have been elected. The flaws of the GRC system which I have blogged about before were most blatantly on display in Marine Parade. Ms Tin Pei Ling who is very unpopular (I do not want Tin Pei Ling in parliament page on facebook has more than 40000 fans) was elected in Marine Parade was a team mate of Mr Goh Chok Tong, a former Prime Minister who is still very popular. There are already online petitions demanding that Ms Tin Pei Ling resign and be replaced with Mr George Yeo. It remains to be seen if the PAP government will reform the GRC system by 2016.
A First World Parliament, A Two Party System ?
True to its 'A First World Parliament' slogan, the six elected seats that the Workers Party shall now hold in the Parliament will provide a very effective platform for WP to present alternative views and ideologies about the government policies. It will help to put a spotlight on the problems that Singapore is facing. It is especially important to have opposition MPs in Singapore because due to the stringent anti-assembly laws, there cant be mass rallies during the intervening period between elections. Hence, parliament is the only credible avenue to express alternative views and criticism of the existing government policies. According to the statistics published in The Straits Times, Workers Party was the only opposition party which polled more than 45% votes in all the wards it contested. Though Mr Low's short term aims stop at being a co-driver, Workers Party seems to show promise as a credible alternative party which may one day even form government. Then, Aljunied voters will be able to tell their grandkids that by opting for a first world parliament in 2011 we elected a future Prime Minister and ensured that Singapore is not just dependent on one set of ideas but has a vibrant system instead.
Lastly, Singaporeans must realise that having more opposition MPs is not a bad thing. It will not lead to any kind of chaos or anarchy. Remember, that the British built an empire and won two world wars and they did this while having a strong opposition in their Parliament.
Note: All images are taken from wikipedia.