Commentary

Living with voters’ existential angst

Living with voters’ existential angst
The PAP's performance at the polls has been attributed to the 'by-election' effect. TODAY File Photo
Published: January 29, 3:59 AM
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By Eugene KB Tan

Was the Punggol East by-election result a rough but reliable reflection of Singaporeans’ assessment of how the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers’ Party (WP) have performed since the 2011 General Election (GE)?

Perhaps. But we should be careful not to extrapolate the results as being a barometer of national sentiment.

Nonetheless, the results are a useful snapshot of the dynamic political situation. More importantly, what does it signal next for the PAP, the WP, the Opposition in general and Singaporeans?

The PAP’s performance at the polls has been attributed to the “by-election effect” in which voters, knowing that the PAP remains in charge regardless of the outcome of the by-election, were more inclined to vote for the WP to put pressure on the Government.

But this assertion about tactical voting behaviour is simplistic. It does not give sufficient credence to the unsettled ground realities and residents’ actual sentiments, and how they impacted political and voting behaviour.

It assumes that voters will vote differently in the next GE — which must be held by Jan 9, 2017— because much more will be at stake.

True, the by-election factor and other issues would have weighed on voters’ minds — including estate amenities, the stalled Rivervale Plaza upgrading and transport connectivity — but the results may very well also reflect the deep existential angst felt by a wider swathe of Singaporeans — especially among the younger, “sandwich” middle-class demographic that was represented in Punggol East.

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