NMP Prof Eugene Tan has observed that the next GE will likely be in ‘the last quarter 2015’.
In my earlier article, I suggested 2 basic considerations for the PAP to time the next GE, namely; the ground must be sweet and PAP must have enough candidates. Since, the good Prof did not explain
why Q4 2015, I shall try to do so.
GE IN Q4 2015
…Not cast in stone. The reason is simple enough. Being too darn sure means that we are not factoring in any Black Swan events leading up to end 2015.
Some pundits believe that if LKY dies, the urge to capitalize on sympathy votes may surface. Or, more likely, the next financial, economic or political global crisis may force the schedule.
Can we be sure how the PAP leadership thinks about the effectiveness of sympathy votes? The ground can be so toxic that LKY’s demise may work against them with wavering, even faithful, voters seeking a clean break from the past. But taking advantage of a global crisis comes with a precedent – GCT bringing forward the 2001 GE after the Sep 11 attack.
Other Black Swans lurking unbeknownst to us in the realm of very low probability include one or some PAP leaders being incapacitated, dying suddenly etc (e.g. air crash, speaking matter-of-factly, not ill-intended). Or PAP invisible in-fighting is so intense that a gauntlet is thrown down to decide on a change in their top leaders. Hence, never say never.
NOT BEFORE 9 AUG 2015
Why? A matter of common sense.
None in her right mind will think the ground is sweet for the PAP currently or anytime soon. The PGP details will only be out in Aug 2014. Time will be needed to explain those details, ground responses collected and analysed. Where’s the certainty the senior-voter ground will be sweetened by this cheap vote-buying shot? How certain when Medishield Life premiums will go up, possibly neutralizing the positives wrought, nay, hoped for with the PGP? How about skeptics who prefer to view the PGP as an outcome from more opposition elected, hence more needed?
Is PAP that foolhardy to think that they can afford to risk the elusive sense of gratefulness to a PAP past to tilt the next GE just so to celebrate the 50th National Day? Only for history to write of fools relying on the vicissitudes of an electorate never so restless, so vocal to be grateful for a past long gone – but a future in peril?
Pertinent, too, is the pressure LHL is already under. He has led PAP to a reduced vote count by 8.7% (2006) and a further 6.5% (2011). Extrapolating that trend, the PAP will likely lose another 4.8% to 7.6% (trending % or average %). Maybe more.
Therefore, LHL needs all the time available to dish out more pork barrels to buy more votes or, at least, stem the bleeding. So, GE in time for 9 Aug 2015 is unlikely.
A MATTER OF HEADCOUNTS
In practical terms, headcounts may shape up to be the bigger challenge PAP faces preparing for the next GE. Consider the figures;
Of 18 ministers, Lim Hng Kiang has been in politics since 1991, Y Ibrahim and S Iswaran since 1997. Wouldn’t they consider it ‘timely’ to call it a day (or abandon ship)? How about the ‘bad guys’ given their ‘unfortunate portfolios’ – Gan Kim Yong & Lui Tuck Yew? Or those patronizing talkers and cocky faces that just rub voters the wrong way – the Vivian & Grace show? Finally, the $8-heart bypass spring chicken at a ripe 62, supposedly ‘best health minister Singapore ever had’ (sure, if you rate by the $8 heart bypass deal he managed for himself when no other citizen could claim the same deal then or since).
So, in all, 8 possible replacements. For this discussion, let’s say we settle for half, 4 insisting that it’s time to quit while the going is good for themselves.
Ageing PAP MPs
Presently, 10 are aged 60 or older; H Daipi, Lily Neo, Charles Chong, Arthur Fong, Raymond Lim, Seng Han Thong, Mah Bow Tan, Wong Kan Seng, Goh Chok Tong & LKY. With 3 obvious albatrosses around the neck (Raymond, Mah & Wong) and LKY (a deserved rest he truly needs), we should expect 6 to 8 retiring , including Seng, 65, Chong & Fong both 61 and Neo, 60 (albeit still attractive, not only physically but a heart of gold). Despite GCT’s own claim of ‘being able to make more money in the private sector’ & ‘top talent’ pedigree, TOTAL & JP Morgan have not shown interest to invite him to replace LKY’s soon-to-be-vacated board seats. So, ‘what’s wrong with collecting more money from citizens’ as MP at S$16k of ‘peanuts/month to bequeath to his grandchildren in the UK?
Middle-Aged PAP MPs
26 are aged 50 to 59.
Without needing to evaluate each one, let’s just go with the PAP’s self-renewal creed and settle on a 50% attrition rate i.e. 13 replacements.
Newbie PAP MPs
Here, records appear to show that PAP usually keep their all their newbies for at least a second term, as with GE 2006 candidates.
But we can reasonably assume that obvious duds like a paediatrician who could only string words in Parliament that sounded more like babbles coming out of the mouths of the babes he usually treats. Or the Kate Spade who’s morphed into a Singapore Nancy Drew, iconic for her efforts hunting down fellow feminine felons keen of sanitary-pad projectiles. Or, as likely , those meritocratic young talents, that only the PAP can see or attract, may wonder if it makes sense continuing to make their resume ‘more impressive’ being onboard a PAP in decline. Or to exit now, the better able to spin later, ‘I disagreed with policies and therefore exited.’
Let’s say 3-4 newbies will quit.
If our analysis holds, then PAP is looking to christen 26-29 new candidates. It could be more if, in their foresight (correctly &, for a change…in Singapore’s better interest, neutral to opposition and not serving only PAP’s interest), they increase the MP seats to 100 to have enough MPs to draw ministers from.
Given the above hard key figures analysis, the question that the PAP is likely grappling with now is attracting enough MPs, credible ones that meet the changed criteria of electability. The electorate appears to indicate they do not reject but, please, not too many highly-educated ones. It seems one has to get pass that basic ‘hygiene factor’ (Herzberg) of boots-on-the-ground-MP type, to play in Parliament.
Hence, the early new faces PAP introduced are probably an acknowledgement of that current truth.
But how attractive is the PAP brand name currently? From the horse’s mouth; Lim Swee Say confirmed he’ll be contesting East Coast GRC but had, in Parliament 2007, said, “By 2016, when I’m 62, if I still have to stand for election to serve as secretary-general of NTUC…as Minister in the PMO… our effort in attracting the best people to form the best team must have run into some difficulties.” <http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/lim-swee-say-fight-east-coast-again-next-ge-20140127#sthash.S3hEg4jz.dpuf>
Well, if the best that PAP can parade thus far is one Chong Kee Hiong with his all-too-familiar sterling academic, commercial and rags-to-riches background but winner-takes-all meritocratic tendencies, upset at foregoing his Primary 5 math prize even into adulthood, one cannot help but surmise that the brand appears attractive still – but for the right motivations???
A posteriori, it appears safe to say that the next GE will likely not be before Aug 2015.
In my next, 3rd final analysis, let’s discuss how the GE should be fought.