The GE 1991 saw PAP ‘lost an unprecedented four seats, the biggest number since the 1963 GE, and its share of votes fell for the third consecutive time since 1984.’ It was Goh Chok Tong’s first GE as PAP Sec-Gen. He planned and executed the GE strategy, not the Old Guards.
If my memory serves me right, at the post-election press conference, Goh’s glum attribution of “the loss to his open and consultative style of government and pledged to re-evaluate his style” was soon forgotten. But not LKY’s pointed assessment of the conduct of the GE itself. He ascribed the outcome to a lack of focus, of not setting the agenda, letting the Opposition take advantage of it.
Since then, PAP has taken the lesson to heart. They know that, with the #153-ranked mainstream media complicit and at its bidding, setting the agenda means controlling the election discussion topics. According to the Agenda-setting Theory, with the MSM reporting on PAP’s preferred topics/issues more often and prominently, voters will view those as more important. PAP can then focus on where their strengths lie and force the Opposition into defensive mode. And no election can be won with even the best defence.
So, what is PAP’s strategy message-wise for GE 2015?
PAP’s Election Agenda
After a dismal GE2011 performance, worse than GE 1991, Sec-Gen Lee is more desperate than reckless or bold in his kiasu-ness (fear of losing). He has set up the Workers’ Party AHPETC’s (town council) alleged failures months beforehand in order to cast doubt, if not fear, in voters’ minds in the hope of swinging votes to PAP’s candidates.
He frames the GE fight solely as a ‘local, local’ issue. This makes good strategic sense since at the national level, performance-wise, PAP has more to cry than crow about. Whereas at the international, Singaporeans generally couldn’t care less when voting their MPs.
What has PAP revealed since the constituency layout announcement?
We hear first from PAP’s Chairman. “Khaw Boon Wan had said on Saturday that candidates for the PAP can be expected to set out their plans for their constituencies very soon.”
Then their GE Organizing Secretary. Ng Eng Hen characterized the election as choosing someone “who decides how your estate improves and the lives of you and your children.” (link)
Finally, Minister Stumblebum, a.k.a. Paper General ‘Kee Chiu’ chimed in, “Your hearts must be pure. You must be here because you want to take care of residents and improve their lives.”
Putting all the 3 prominently-reported-by-MSM revelations together; ‘plans for…constituencies…your estate improves and the lives of you and your children…take care of residents.” In short, their rally cry is ‘It’s Your Estate, Stupid!’
As mentioned earlier, at the national level, PAP has more to cry than crow about. Therein lies how the Opposition must hammer home its own agenda for this GE. What can that be?
Which are the few crucial elephants in the room amongst all the elephants (white ones) that PAP has created? I suggest 3 broad categories;
1. Population Influx (affecting Jobs, Housing, Transport)
2. Retirement Inadequacy
3. Cost-fo-living expenses (Healthcare, Education, Daily expenditure)
It is absolutely crucial to think up a tagline that accurately represents the crucial issues and that voters can easily recall. To reach out to those mis-/mal-informed citizens who still feel they owe it to vote the PAP, we need to differentiate the new, mostly paper-generals-and-civil-servants-turn-politicians from the PAP Old Guards who understood and could identify with heartlanders and true-blue Singaporeans. Previously, all of us were ‘we-the-citizens-of-Singapore’ with no class distinction or demarcation.
How do we weave those components into a memorable slogan? Surprisingly, PAP Sec-Gen himself lends us a hand.
“It’s the Aristocrats, stupid!”
Aristocrats and Aristocracy were non-existent and words, unheard of in the last 50 years of Singapore’s history. Don’t believe? You can google Straits Times past issues.
Then, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Lee Hsien Loong himself chose to reveal the true thoughts in the deep recesses of his mind all these 30 years he was in the cabinet.
“You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out.” PM Lee
His is an ‘Aristocrat-government’ with ministers, MPs and top civil servants who are Singapore’s very own Nobility; our unnamed but obvious Dukes, Barons, Duchess and Dames, judging by, we shall see, their acts and words.
Aristocrats need not worry about foreigners or barbarians at the gate; about finding or losing jobs, about high street prices for HDB flats. Indeed, about having to bow with fellow and foreign commuters and scrape for a seat. Or take 6 years to pay for a COE. Until now, to PM Lee, foreigner influx is just a “numbers” game, “it all adds up”. But with GE coming, he changes his tune to, “I can understand Singaporeans’ anxieties…”
Aristocrats need not worry about retirement, or retirement adequacy. Either they earn salaries that are the highest in the world by a long shot. Or their spouses are legally employed and paid amounts that are state secrets. They do not even need to retire to fly Raffles Class to France to learn French cooking, oui?
Aristocrats need not worry how high the sky prices can reach for our cost-of-living. One of their very own aristocrats expressed it best, ‘My heart bypass costs S$8.’ And, conversant of Chinese fables and Japanese samurai custom of hara-kiri, he indirectly disparaged the money citizens have to scrape to see our own children thro’ university with his, ‘You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it.’
So, ‘It’s the Aristocrats, stupid!’ appears to hit the spot for GE 2015. It draws the line whence for us “commoners” to view the gulf between us and them, The Aristocrats. Thanks a million, His Grace, Lord Lee Hsien Loong for your assistance.
With PAP’s financial and organizational resources and foul means (via MSM), there is little hope of directly challenging the Agenda-setting means of the PAP. But there is hope yet.
There is Social Media! Hallujah!
All fair-minded websites, Facebook, Tweeter accounts, Blogs etc etc must bring their presence to bear to help report what MSM will not. I’m certain there are many more than those obviously set up by PAP to advance their own narratives. Therein lies our strength in number.
Now, the million $$$ question…Will all the Opposition Parties now unite to at least rise to this small but urgent and strategically-important need to speak with One Voice the slogan to counter PAP’s agenda-setting initiative?
Altogether now, Oppo Parties, “It’s the Aristocrats, stupid!” Yes?
Law Kim Hwee