Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Narrow Win (& what it means)

Former Singapore Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Tony Tan, will become Singapore’s next president after getting a narrow win in the Presidential Election yesterday. When I say narrow, I mean it as he got just 35.2% off the votes. That is just 0.4% more than runner-up Dr. Tan Cheng Bock.

Now there will be a lot of people who will come out with their own analysis of the election but as this is my blog; these are my views.

1) There is a spilt in the PAP vote bank. In the General Election (GE) 3 months ago, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) won with about 60% of the votes. There will be some people who say that a win of just 0.4% by the PAP-backed Tony Tan is a sign of the ruling party eroding popularity but I disagree. I think its more likely that the 60% who voted for the PAP in the GE were spilt between Dr. Tony Tan and Dr. Tan Cheng Bock. Both were long-time members of the PAP, the only difference is that while the higher-ups of the PAP back Dr. Tony Tan, Dr. Tan Cheng Bock’s support came from the grassroots.

2) To win the election, you need the support of a political party behind you. Of the 4 candidates, Mr. Tan Kin Lian lost his deposit as he got less than 5% of the votes. The reason wasn’t because he was unpopular; it was because he had to do everything himself. I think it says a lot that after he conceded defeat, he went to a friend’s house where he was greeted by 50 people, all of whom were his friends and family. His campaign was ran like a family affair and that hurt him. Although he had appealed for support from opposition parties, there is no reason for them to support him. Why would any of them support a former member of the PAP who is not currently a member of any opposition party? That makes no sense right? Especially when the opposition have a card-carrying member of the opposition in the contest as well. Mr. Tan Jee Say came in third yesterday with 25% of the vote not because he was more popular than Mr. Tan Kin Lian, but because he had the SDP (Singapore Democratic Party) and the opposition behind him.

3) The Presidential Election need to be tweaked. I believed Dr. Tony Tan was going to win and I am not surprised by his win. However I am surprised and unhappy about his winning margin. Dr. Tony Tan won only 35.2% of the votes, a win of 0.4%. In other countries with direct presidential elections, if no can candidates won a certain margin of the total votes, there will be a run-off by the top 2 candidates. Singapore do not have that rule (to be fair, no one thought it necessary) and I believe it’s time we add that rule into our Presidential Election system. Yes, that will mean another vote but a run-off will be the best way to decided who has the support and the mandate to be president. Even though I vote for Dr. Tony Tan yesterday, I do not believe or accept that he has a mandate to be president with a paltry margin of just 7,269 votes. Despite what the PAP says, I believe I am not the only one who feels this way.


Ben Aveling said...

There is an alternative to having a run-off election - preferential voting.

Anonymous said...

Is your next to last sentence serious? That means you also do not support the huge number of seats PAP has, for only 60% of the vote, despite voting for the PAP.

Ghost said...

Look, do any of you people knows how preferential voting really works?
1) After the vote, you will not get the results until at least about a week later
2) After the vote, even people who lost can get into parliment because their party did well. Yes, under that system, losers become winners!
3) After the vote, leaders of the losing party become important because there will be a lot of horse-trading between all the various parties.
Now, do you guys really think this system is better than what we have now? I sure don't.

Anonymous said...


1) After the vote, you will not get the results until at least about a week later
incorrect. Australia has a preferential voting system and the votes are all counted by midnight usually.

2) After the vote, even people who lost can get into parliment because their party did well. Yes, under that system, losers become winners!
No different with the GRC system that we have here. Unpopular candidates who would not fair well in a SMC still win a seat.

Ghost said...

There’s a difference between counting the votes and getting the seat. I don’t know about Australia but even if they managed to count all the votes on the day of the election, under a preferential voting system they should not be able to know who will be in parliament on the same day. This is because the “best losing party” will also get seats in parliament. Like I said earlier, I don’t know about Australia but I will be very surprise if they managed to sort all that out by midnight on Election Day.
As for the preferential voting system being the same as the GRC system. At least under the GRC system, the unpopular candidate who got the seat is part of the team that won the seat. They won on the coattails of more popular candidates but at least they got the “W”. Under the preferential voting system, you can get in even if you get a “L”.

Anonymous said...

I never voted for TT.
But I against a run-off.
A run-off is necessary only if the President that we elect is a full-fledge Executive President. Don't waste time and money.
Instead, A run-off for Parliamentary Election (be it GRC or SMC) is necessary.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to look at the following link to understand preferential:

If there is an absolute majority in the first count, the candidate wins. If there no absolute majority, thats where the preferential votes start being taken into consideration.

It does not make absolute sense that a 'losing candidate' can get into parliament. All seats must be won by a majority, as clearly shown in the link above.

at least with preferential, if your first choice was chosen, you can give it to your second best choice and so on.

As for...

"At least under the GRC system, the unpopular candidate who got the seat is part of the team that won the seat."

The winning team does not win a seat. it wins a seat for each of the team members. So if you have one popular candidate in a team with an unpopular (or more) candidates, you've basically made the other seats redundant because the people did not want them in parliament.

Unpopular candidate = the LOSER gets a seat in Parliament!

You have to remember that they're not a team anymore when they're in parliament - they are a individual seat/vote.

Ghost said...

@ Anon 2.47pm (both comments are at the same time so I assume it is by the same person)

Personally I think a run-off is necessary as the President is our Head-of-State. Even if he is not an Executive President like an American President, as our head of state he should have a clear mandate. With only 35% of the vote, Tony Tan don’t have that. So that’s why I think a run-off would be a good idea.
Like I said earlier, I don’t know much about the Australian system and the link you put up is unfortunately cut halfway (Please put up the link again thanks). If I understand what you says above correctly, then under the Australian system, if there is no majority the preferential votes starts with the voter’s second choice, third choice etc.
Personally, I don’t think that’s a good system. 1 man has 1 vote and that man has to decide who he wants to represent him in parliament or as his president. An election system that ask for voter’s second choice or third choice is just diluting the importance of the vote. Voters have to right to decide who they want, and they also have the responsibility of standing behind their decision. A system that allows voters to be wishy-washy about their choice is not in my view a good one.

Anonymous said...

Preferential voting is as below?

On the election night, Polling officials sort and counted the first preferences given by voters according to where the voter placed number ”1” for each candidate.

This is the primary count and the results are displayed
on the tally board.

If no candidate receives an absolute majority of 50% plus 1, then subsequent preferences have to be distributed.

Candidate with the lowest number of first preference votes is now distributed to the remaining candidates according to the voter's next available preference, ie where voters mark their number “2”.

If still no candidate has an absolute majority, then the candidate with the next lowest number of votes is excluded and distributed to the remaining candidates according to where voters placed their number “3” preference.

And so on, until someone hit the absolute majority of 50% plus 1

Preference voting vote only once but mark a few boxes with numbers instead of a tick or cross?

Run-offs has to go vote again, on another days, with candidates let lose to campaign again ?

Ghost said...

It’s the subsequent preferences that I have a problem with. It is said that every man has 1 vote, not every man has 1 vote with a second choice, third choice etc behind his main choice.
Election is not about your second or third choice candidates, it’s about who you want to represent you as your MP or President. A run-off that allow voters a clear choice is in my view a far better option.