Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Opposition Election Strategy - Part 1

Alex Au wrote a series of articles on opposition:

Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 1
Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 2
Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 3

You should read his essay in the original form so that you don't miss any of his arguments. But in case you don't have time, as usual, I've done a summary:

1. There are 2 oppositions - "On the one side, we have those who are quick to protest their fealty to the king ("my lord, we will always play by your rules, no way civil disobedience") and who adopt the same measure and meaning of 'credibility' as the king. The other side contests both." Those in the 1st camp 'with an aversion to playing it tougher' resembling the mainstream of our society - risk averse in almost everything they do.

2. There is an array of issues that form dissent against the govt. They are:

  • Stress and pace of life

  • Economic equity

  • Communal interests (issues related to race and religion)

  • Civil liberties/social justice
These are pitted against the govt credo of economic growth & tight, honest, efficient and effective govt.

3. There is a core group of opposition supporters forming 25-40% of the voters - they strongly dislike or hate the PAP. Once they are infected with this hate, it is hard for the PAP to win them over. The support level for the opposition is stuck at this level because the rest of the voters do not share this strong dislike for the PAP.

3. Opposition parties deal with this situation in two ways - one fan the hatred so that it spreads, two to make reasonable criticisms of the PAP policy so that 'middle of the road' voters come onboard. The 2nd approach is harder because the opposition lacks resources like policy think-tanks and as many opposition party members are actually motivated by 'visceral dislike' for the PAP, all this looks like a chore. The end result is an opposition that lacks a coherent platform.

4. The WP's approach to try to sell a big manifesto in 9 days of campaigning in the last elections was a mistake because there wasn't enough time for the people to digest it. Instead, it should have been done over as a long term task - engaging people with alternative ideas and collecting feedback + fine tuning. They also need to reduce the alternative proposals to in key ideas for better retention in public's mind. To do this the WP has to be very coherent in its philosophical positioning - socialists, left or right? Today it is not so clear where they are. The lack of philosophical coherency, makes it hard for WP to criticise the govt because they cannot establish position in a continuum of policy options e.g. how much to subsidise medical fees on a scale of 0% to 100%.

5. A example of coherent positioning is the SDP. People may not like them but they know the SDP's position on civil liberties. However, the SDP is far less successful with 'branding' on economic issues.

6. That WP tries to sell itself as a watchdog is a cop out. Only people who already don't trust the govt will support them for this and it does not help to expand the core base.

7. The PAP does not hog the center ground in its policy making sometimes taking to extreme views e.g. stress is good for you on the pace of life issue. This gives plenty of ground for the opposition to formulate alternatives and occupy the center with ideas more supportable by the public.

8. If there is a change in the habits of opposition parties, will there be a change in the vote count?
9. The 3rd part of his essay looks at the possibility of a split in the PAP and in the long run. This has happened in several other countries with dominant parties. So the real show may be what happens within the PAP rather than what goes on in the opposition.

Before reading Alex's essay, I gave the issue of opposition election strategy plenty of thought and came to a completely different conclusion. My belief it is far harder for PAP to retain its dominance in future elections regardless of what the opposition does (as long as they don't fumble too badly). In fact it is the PAP that has to reposition itself. As Alex correctly pointed out, very often Singaporeans are asked to swallow policy options/decisions that are clearly at the extreme end - will Singaporeans continue to accept this or will they do something about it.

My next posting will look at the issue of election strategy more broadly and walk you through the arguments that led to my conclusion.


Anonymous said...

Insightful analysis from by far the clearest crystal ball. I hope all politicians will click in to Alex's articles and give it a good read. It is not about individual politicians, but rather the country we are born into. dt

Anonymous said...

Lucky, did you listen to 938 Live this morning regarding the ever increasing HDB prices? The guy on air suggested we sell our HDB flat when we are old and buy a house and live JB. Brilliant!

watchcat said...

nonsense by alex au.

who controls the mass media wins.

human beings are easily infuenced creatures, esp by daily bombardment of spinning news.

Anonymous said...

SDP's reply to Alex Au here:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when the ground is barren and the climate harsh, it is hard for things to grow. Like in the Arctic or in deserts.

But with greenhouses, irrigation and technology maybe still can grow some crops. But it is artificial, intensive and hence scale is not large.

In Singapore, the ground is barren for the opposition to grow. Even if try various means, the growth will still not be large.

Anonymous said...

No need so many words.They lose and lose because they are idiots and tone deaf

Anonymous said...

I think Alex Au is not doing justice to the SDP. Imo SDP has the most coherent platform compared to WP or SDA. SDP's actions have resulted in PAP govt boxing itself and churning out more ridiculous laws that will only make PAP govt look more ridiculous.

Towkay said...

"rookielim said...

Lucky, did you listen to 938 Live this morning regarding the ever increasing HDB prices? The guy on air suggested we sell our HDB flat when we are old and buy a house and live JB. Brilliant!"

That guy on radio is another brilliant person. This is the reality that Singaporeans refuse to accept despite voting for it.

Towkay said...

Why is there a need for opposition? PM Lee has already promised that Singaporeans will come first. Towkays like me will surely give our support. For starters, I have started applying for my foreign talent to become Singaporeans.

I have also reduced my target of importing foreign talent by 2%. Lastly, I have reserved some foodcourt cleaners jobs at $400 a month for Singaporeans, now hoping that Singaporeans will stop being so fussy.

Anonymous said...

Mr Lucky

I was just telling your fren Mr Skeptic yesterday that even Mr Au is beginning to see the light from the lightning bolt ...

Seriously. No Joke!!!

1. Like I said before, the opposition hates each other as much as PAP. Coalition like our frens up north is not likely.

2. Singapore election is 1st past the post. This means PAP only needs 50% + 1 vote to win each SMC/GRC. And they are not above gerrymandering.

3. Of the 40% (u think) who hate/dislike PAP, many will still vote for them. As much as I like to mock Sinkees, its not just us. Remember the CCP runs China w iron-fist even though the cadres are barely 1% of the population. Fear is a powerful thing. So is control of information. Thats how government rules. Even Obama sees that. Cue the underwear bomber.

4. The list is very long but just to repeat for the nth time, elections are expensive. Just ask Obama. The people need rich and talented folks like you to step up. If you do not, it is really pointless to rationalize. The brutal truth is that we will all lose. Again.

PS: I am surprise u did not point out Mr Wang's analysis on SRS is flawed. Most sinkees pay little or no income tax after deductions. To be in the 14% bracket, ur pay needs to be well within 100k pa. Which is the top 10% or so. But good for u. Btw, Mr Lucky u are too clever. Because u save a few $k in taxes, the poor like me will have to pay more in regressive taxes to cover the shortfall.

Anonymous said...

Anon 19.24

"Most sinkees pay little or no income tax after deductions."

You are wrong. 57% pay income tax after deductions, according to the latest figures.

And a lot more, like those self employed eg hawkers, tutors, unlicensed agents etc make lots of money but never pay tax at all. Or underdeclare their income.

All these people love PAP, which is why consistently 66% voted PAP at every election.

PAP knows better than anybody else with all the wealth data of sinkies under their control.

If not enough, just grant citizenships to some rich FTs to solve the votes problem.

Anonymous said...

I wish Singaporeans will vote with the big picture in mind.

Unfortunately, PAP's demonization of SDP has been very successful. It may make PAP look like idiots to smart people, but I don't think it harms them at the ballot box.

Remember that USA has lots of low income idiots who are manipulated into voting Republican everytime to support rich people.

Anonymous said...

I think Alex Au is not doing justice to the SDP. Imo SDP has the most coherent platform compared to WP or SDA. SDP's actions have resulted in PAP govt boxing itself and churning out more ridiculous laws that will only make PAP govt look more ridiculous.

6/1/10 13:48

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, remember the nat geo interview of LKY, I think that we did him an injustice by reading his words "stick the spurs in" out of context.

I am no great fan of him, but, in this case we were wrong. Sorry old man.

Anonymous said...

The incumbent has led the people into a one way street. Don't think about reversing without social and economical consequences. Therefore it is easy for those with little to lose-already benefited from the pap rule-to tussle for power without considering a vast majority will have to pay the price of dissent later.
What is sad is that, not only are they fanning unhappiness to widen their suuport base, but in doing so, they validate their own irrational grievances.
They known not the third way and has become the blind themselves leading the blur.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the government is ring fencing itself. Another new "Chee" law has been passed. This time in response to him posting the audio recording and transcript of his interview with MM during the recent trial. From now on doing that will be comtempt of court. Of course they have not indicated this in their explaination for the ruling but then every idiot will know the actual reason. Chee is clearly ruffling a lot of feathers.

Anonymous said...

SDP is quite harmless to its opponents, judging from past elections.

If I were PAP, I am not worried about Chee or SDP at next elections.

Anonymous said...

SDP is harmless in terms of 'electoral votes' only because of the amount of damage that the PAP has done to them via the mainstream media.

Aside from elections, if SDP as so harmless, why are they arrested so quickly every single time?

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 19:24:

You're right the SRS is regressive as it benefits Mr. Wang more than the ordinary guy. I took the savings anyway. I plan to donate the savings to one of the children charities rather than give it to the govt. I believe the tax rebate for the 3rd child is also regressive as one has to use it within 5 years and the poor pay no tax and does not benefit from is matching savings which require the parents to be rich enough to set aside the money for the govt to match. Mr Wang will be benefitting from a lot of this if he chooses to have a 3rd child.

I don't hate this govt. Hate is blind. I take issue with their policies which I think is extreme. If this govt honestly transform itself overnight to do what we want them to do, what is there to hate? Vicious personal attacks using doctored pictures, name calling, wild baseless accusations and other forms of hate venting does not help the cause. The Internet has become some kind of release valve for the frustrated to gather however that does win new supporters because it is the
PAP haters fanning each other's hate.

I think the opposition has to present a very clear case that it beneficial for the voters to have them in parliament. Afterall the majority of the voters vote for their own long term benefit and the PAP system I believe does not work towards that.

Anonymous said...

Anyone knows what is happening to the Temasek review Website? Has the governement closed it down?

Helix said...

Anon 11:51

"if SDP as so harmless, why are they arrested so quickly every single time?"

My view is that PAP is NOT targeting SDP - there's no need to do that. However, it is just that SDP makes too easy a target, doing things against the law blatantly. Can't really blame the police to follow-up.

Anonymous said...

"I think the opposition has to present a very clear case that it beneficial for the voters to have them in parliament. "


lim said...

@anon 7/1/10 12:57

Use a proxy server to access temasek review..


Anonymous said...

Alamak...i mistook State Times's article "Time to say NO to FIFA" to "Time to say NO to ministers' forever increasing high pay"...sigh

Anonymous said...

>>Another new "Chee" law has been passed

BINGO ha ha ha
Maybe should pass law to ban the Chee surname

Anonymous said...

Mr Lucky

I think the opposition has to present a very clear case that it beneficial for the voters to have them in parliament.

You may think you are clear minded and objective but pls consider that almost every article you have written is from Straits Times or some other MSM.

Anyway, an interesting thing happened over X'mas.

On Dec 16, YRC was on brink of bankruptcy.
Teamster Union bluntly told Goldman Sachs not to F**K around.
Teamster btw is a major contributor to Obama (both $ and votes) and has members not averse to violence.

Goldman claimed they have nothing to do with it.

Of course, by New Year's eve, Goldman had rescued YRC.

From the beloved wiki:
The 20th Century Italian thinkers Pareto and Mosca (independently) argued that democracy was illusory, and served only to mask the reality of elite rule. Indeed, they argued that elite oligarchy is the unbendable law of human nature, due largely to the apathy and division of the masses (as opposed to the drive, initiative and unity of the elites), and that democratic institutions would do no more than shift the exercise of power from oppression to manipulation

Anon 19:24

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