After the 2011 General Election, when the People's Action Party's (PAP's) vote share fell to 60.1 per cent, some thought the opposition tide could not be rolled back in the face of rising diversity in the electorate, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.
With the results of the 2015 GE, the PAP showed that "indeed the tide can be rolled back and rolled back in a very substantive way", he said.
Speaking ahead of a "thank you" parade in Nee Soon GRC, which the PAP retained with 66.83 per cent of the votes against a Workers' Party (WP) challenge, he identified factors that accounted for the pro-PAP swing. These were policies that were not just well crafted but well communicated; Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's personal popularity and ability to persuade voters of the Government's message; and young Singaporeans' vindication of the unique relationship the PAP has with the people that makes Singapore special.
This is "the ability of Government to work with the people, for the people, thinking and planning long-term, but also dealing with short-term issues. That is the unique ability that we have that no one, or very few others, have".
Mr Shanmugam said the swing was also a "significant reversal" in support for the WP - the key reason being that voters cannot be hoodwinked. The WP lost Punggol East to the PAP and retained Aljunied GRC and Hougang, but with slimmer margins. Overall, the WP saw a vote slide across the board, from 40-odd per cent in 2011 to 30-odd per cent now, he pointed out.
"The Singapore public, they are very discerning. You can't hoodwink them. You can't leave a lot of questions unanswered... and go to rallies and say, I have answered all the questions," he said.
"You try that, they will punish you. I think in the voting booth, they went in and thought to themselves, there are lots of questions here that (they) have not answered. And why are they not answering?"
He was referring to questions about how the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council managed residents' funds.
"So many unanswered questions relating to millions of dollars, a refusal to answer in Parliament, and statements from the High Court which are highly critical. These are all in people's minds," he said.
"People won't know details, they won't know (the) ins and outs, they won't know balance sheets. But they know something is wrong... they also know there is constant evasion. And you can't take people for granted. The PAP cannot, and the opposition cannot."
The results were a "vindication" of the PAP's approach, which was to make character, integrity and honesty the fundamental qualities a politician here must have.
The landslide win would not be taken for granted, he said, adding that the mandate should be an occasion for "deep reflection and humility", and an impetus to work harder.
"Because our electorate is savvy, sophisticated. You do wrong things, you will get punished. People know that the PAP will keep on its toes, will be accountable and if it doesn't do either, it can be delivered a very sharp lesson."
This article was first published on September 13, 2015.
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