The Bukit Batok by-election is really a Chee Soon Juan vs PAP contest

It is one day before cooling off day (6 May) and two days from polling day (7 May), and there is still no clear indicator on who will triumph at Bukit Batok — we guess it will be a rather tight contest either way.

One interesting point to take away from the campaign trail thus far is how nearly all heavyweights from the People’s Action Party (PAP) are taking turns to whack Dr Chee Soon Juan.

From heavyweights like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister for Culture Grace Fu, former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, to even Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat are all taking pot-shots at Dr Chee; it makes one wonder just how important the Bukit Batok Single Member Constituency is to the PAP, or maybe they just really enjoying bashing Dr Chee.

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MustShareNews has decided to explain this circus-like situation and why the Bukit Batok seat is so important for the PAP, thus galvanizing heavyweights of PAP to fiercely throw their weight behind Murali and take on Dr Chee.

1. Bukit Batok is not a safe seat for the PAP

Prior to its resurrection in the previous General Election, the Bukit Batok SMC was strongly challenged by then-SDP candidate, Kwan Yue Keng in 1988 and 1994. Both contests saw a marginal victory for the PAP. The SMC was then dissolved ahead of the 1997 General Elections.

Although Bukit Batok was safely retained by the PAP in the 2015 General Election, a by-election contest for Bukit Batok is a different type of battleground for the PAP, since it is the only seat contested, with no risk of the government changing overnight. In this context, it may be interest of Bukit Batok resident to “protest” against the PAP within safe spaces on recent national fiasco like the recent Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) blackout or the lack of transparency in the late Private Dominique Sarron Lee case.

2. Risk of setting a precedent of PAP losing by-elections

If the PAP loses Bukit Batok, it will be the third consecutive by-election loss for the PAP following the by-electoral loss of Hougang in 2012 and of Punggol East in 2013.

Losing out on Bukit Batok can possibly set a dangerous precedent for the PAP in losing by-elections to Opposition. This may be due to the by-election effect; Singaporeans vote for the Opposition in by-elections with the confidence that the PAP still remains in power anyway.

This precedent could very well lay out a path dependency in the politics of Singapore where the practise of voting in Oppositions in by-elections become internalised and natural for Singapore politics.

This is certainly not good news for PAP.

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3. Takes the shine off from PAP’s huge win last year

Less than a year ago, the PAP emerged as huge victors in the 2015 General Election, marching to a rather commanding victory with nearly 70% of the popular vote. PM Lee even boisterously claimed that his party won a strong mandate and has the backing of the young voters.

All this is gone if the PAP fails to retain Bukit Batok come 7 May. Dr Chee’s victory in Bukit Batok will reflect the rather inconvenient truth that the PAP may have won the last General Election because of the electorate’s fear of freak result, rather than a wholehearted endorsement from Singaporeans for the PAP.

Adding to that, PAP will probably fail one of their ultimate goal in failing to retain Bukit Batok, and that is preventing this guy from getting to Parliament.

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4. Dr Chee Soon Juan in Parliament

The thought of Dr Chee Soon Juan entering Parliament and directly opposing the PAP is enough to prompt Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to consult his book on how to fix Dr Chee as an Opposition….

….. this is mentioned by PM Lee himself.

Dr Chee is a remarkably articulate speaker for a Singapore politician. Dr Chee is famed for being able to drop catch-phrases that can resonate with voters and provoke other politicians at the same time.

At the first day of the Bukit Batok campaign trail, the SDP Secretary-General quipped,

Every morning when Mr Murali wakes up, his first destination will be his office. When I [Dr Chee] wake up every morning, my first destination is Bukit Batok.

The phrase was apparently so catch-worthy that Dr Chee repeated it many times along his campaign trail, and even incited response from Culture Minister Grace Fu and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yaacob.

Two days (3 May) ago, Dr Chee dropped another notable phrase in his rally in response to all the swipes he been enduring this campaign trail; this man’s a really natural articulator –

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Even Murali Pillai himself, the PAP’s candidate for Bukit Batok indirectly/subconsciously/unwittingly acknowledged Dr Chee’s verbal skills by remarking yesterday (4 May) that it is not enough for a Member of Parliament to just be articulate. If anything, the PAP is subconsciously proving Dr Chee’s point on how he can be an effective Opposition in the Parliament, in being able to provoke responses from the PAP.

5. Possibility of laying the foundational groundwork for the rise of SDP in the West

Dr Chee’s successful bid for Bukit Batok could very well lay out the foundational base for the rise of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) as an Opposition to be reckoned with in Singapore.

This is similar to the strategy and experience of the Workers’ Party. Low Thia Khiang, the then Assistant-Secretary General of the Workers’ Party first won the single-seat Hougang constituency in 1991 and has never looked back since. Four elections later, as the Secretary-General of the Hammers, Low Thia Khiang won the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency and is now the most successful Singapore Opposition to date.

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As PAP nervously looks on, Dr Chee could be attempting to pattern the same strategy for the SDP, by first winning Bukit Batok and then laying the foundational groundwork for SDP to grow.

Of course, this will come with a huge caveat on whether Dr Chee will be able to manage the Bukit Batok Town Council to the satisfaction of Bukit Batok residents and whether he would be able to be an effective opposition if elected.

A lot is at stake at Bukit Batok

With polling day just two days away, Dr Chee and Mr Murali will be having their final rally tonight in bid of making their last push for the Bukit Batok seat.

There will be a lot at stake for both individuals and their parties in the General Election come 7 May, but we are sure, that the residents of Bukit Batok will vote for the best man.

With that, we will let the Game Of Thrones commence.

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