Hougang: You are not listening
On paper, Desmond Choo should have walked away with Hougang quite comfortably. There were so many things going for him. The PM, DPM and the whole PAP machinery were speaking and rooting for him. The whole war chest of the govt was in his pocket, so to speak, to spruce up the Singapore slum in Hougang, a neglected constituency left to its own fancy and limited resources. Who can resist the kind of goodies that Desmond is rolling out, or going to roll out for them?
The main media’s courage alone would have won the election for him too. This was not in the case of Png Eng Huat, who was accused of dishonesty and lack of integrity, two factors that would have thrown him out if he were to seek employment or wanted to go into business with anyone. He was written off like a leper.
And what could Png Eng Huat offer except for more of the same? And Desmond Choo warned the Hougangkia that that was what they would get for the next 4 years if they did not elect him.
And the controversies of WP having internal quarrels, party members resigning, Poh Lee Guan collecting his donation slip and could have gone on to challenge Png in a three corner fight. Then the leak of CEC minutes being aired everywhere. This is not just to discredit Png, but also to tell the voters that WP could be infiltrated by moles, a hopeless party that could not guard even against traitors within their ranks. The worst was being accused of being a racist party. That could have been very costly.
All said, with the cards stacked against Png Eng Huat, what was left was the loyalty to Low Thia Kiang and the WP, and the hearts of the Hougangkia. Would they buy the goodies offered and change course? Would they forget the 20 years of neglect, penalties for voting the WP, and threats of more of the same?
There is also a bigger agenda at stake, where is Singapore heading? Are the voters happy with the govt, the direction it is taking, the policies and the interests of the people? And, are they confident that this govt will be there to serve them and bring about a better life for everyone? The big picture was also in play.
The Hougangkia voted against immediate short term gains. They rejected all the offers and promises. They voted for change, and for having to bear with the consequences that they have lived with for 21 years. There is some chivalry left, a sense of justice and fair play, a sense of righteousness, a hope that things can be better with a change in govt in an uncertain future.
The other opposition parties also played their parts by not throwing in a spanner in a three corner fight. It makes the choice of the Hougangkia much straight forward. The victory is the victory of the Hougangkia and those who wanted a regime change. They wanted change, but change in their own terms, not something to be bargained for. They wanted to chart their own course and the course of the country, a new course, not this one.
Desmond Choo gained 3%. In absolute terms, the gain was 124 votes more than his last election. For all the efforts and distractions, this is too insignificant to call a meaningful gain. The PAP has failed in a big way with this kind of result. It is painting on the wall.
2016 is going to see a dramatic change in political fortunes. It will be an election to count the number of GRCs falling, and the ministers that go with them. I have not been so sure about this trend of thought until this by election.
This by election is part of a bigger scheme of things to come. It is a test bed on the emotions of the people with Hougang as a small sample. Some may dismiss Hougang as too small, isolated and does not represent the whole of the island. It may be, but it still represents a big shift in the political mindset and aspiration of the common people. Look at the crowd at the informal WP kopitiam HQ and those in the PAP HQ. The difference is stark. It is the people versus the droids. It is the tide of a spontaneous people uprising against a regime gone bad and its machine. And Hougang is a confirmation that things will not be the same again. It is not going to be a status quo in the next 4 years running up to the GE in 2016.
The only minister that may be quietly smiling could be Tharman. Hsien Loong and Chee Hean are looking very likely to lose their GRCs. As things are today, not many ministers will be around after the next GE. Tharman could be the next PM in a drastically shrunk govt with a small majority in Parliament. Hougang is going to set the ball rolling.