SINGAPORE: Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (Sep 12) listed three reasons for the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) dominant performance at the General Election (GE): Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s popularity, the ruling party’s policies and the Workers’ Party’s (WP) handling of its town council.
This year’s GE saw the PAP sweep 83 out of the 89 seats and secure 69.9 per cent of the vote – an upswing of nearly 10 percentage points from its showing in 2011.
One factor, according to Mr Shanmugam, is Mr Lee’s “personal charisma and popularity”, as well as his ability to communicate the PAP’s message to the electorate.
“The sort of speeches he made – the Fullerton Rally speech, probably one of the best speeches he has made, brought across something that’s not easy to bring across, which is the things we are doing, the things we need to do within a framework of what is in the best interest of all,” said Mr Shanmugam.
“It’s not just an emotional point, one here, one there, hit out, which is easy to do. But to put it across to the population, to bring it across as to what is necessary.”
Another reason, said Mr Shanmugam was the PAP’s “policies which have been brought home”.
“We didn’t just do the policies, we took the trouble in the last 4.5 years to bring across many of the policies to the people and explain it to them,” he said.
But Mr Shanmugam also pointed out that these factors alone fail to “explain the slide in Opposition in strongholds”.
The WP lost its Punggol East single seat, and although it retained Aljunied Group Representation Constituency and Hougang Single Member Constituency – its share of the votes dropped.
“I think the clue is perhaps in what Ms Lee Li Lian said last night, about municipal issues,” said Mr Shanmugam.
“The Singaporean public is very discerning. You can’t hoodwink them. You can’t leave a lot of questions unanswered on the table, and then go on to the rallies and say ‘I’ve answered all the questions’,” he said.
“You do that, and they punish you. So I think in the voting booth, when they went in, they thought to themselves – ‘there are a lot of questions here which have not been answered, and why are they not answered’?”
Mr Shanmugam also referred directly to the allegations of financial mismanagement that have surrounded the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council. He said that this issue had contributed to the WP’s poor showing in the General Election – a point that WP chairman Sylvia Lim had earlier in the day denied, when she spoke to reporters.
“Certainly, I think issues relating to the way the town council monies have been handled, and the fact that there are so many unanswered questions… and a refusal to answer in Parliament, and statements by a High Court judge which are highly critical,” he remarked.
“These are all in people’s minds. People won’t know the details, they won’t know the ins and outs, they won’t know the balance sheets. But they know something is wrong. Not just that something is wrong, but they also know there is constant evasion.”
“And you can’t take people for granted. Not the PAP, not the opposition,” Mr Shanmugam concluded.