Okay, that was unexpected! Lee Li Lian of the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) scored an upset last night when she garnered 16,038 votes against People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Dr Koh Poh Koon’s 12,856 to win the Punggol East by-election.
The loss is a big blow to the ruling PAP and one I never saw coming. I don't think the WP did either because after the results came in, they took a long time before holding the press conference. In the aftermath of the victory, I think a few things are clear.
1) The WP has cement it's place as the second biggest political party in Singapore. Not only did the WP won a 4-way fight, Mdm Lee also became the first female opposition member to win a single member constituency (SMC) since 1965. I mean even the PAP think twice about fielding a woman in a SMC.
2) With the victory, any chance of opposition unity has gone the way of the dodo. WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang had said during the election that he do not believe the concept of opposition unity is viable. After this win, he would have even less inclination to reach out to the rest of the opposition.
3) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the PAP got their work cut off for them. They fielded a solid candidate in Dr. Koh and the rejection by Punggol East voters should be a lesson to them. Frankly, after the less than successful results in the General Elections (GE) in 2011, the PAP had been slow in changing course. It's been more of the same and only in the past few days has a slew of new programs been announced. It was too little, too late for Dr. Koh.
4) I think now the parties would be less likely to ditch their MPs who had affairs. The married Michael Palmer was forced out after it was revealed that he had an affair, the second time this happened since GE 2011. The WP got away with it in Hougang, but the PAP didn't in Punggol East. Things is, the voters did care! The PAP didn't lose in Punggol East due to the affair, it never came up even once during the election period because the parties know that the voters did not care. With the loss by Dr. Koh, the political parties may now be more careful in pulling the trigger on further indiscretion.
5) Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan must be congratulating himself this morning on his decision to pull out of the Punggol East by-election. Not only did he not spoilt the opposition votes and made the WP's victory possible, he and the SDP did not suffer the heavy defeat that was inflicted on the Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance. You truly have to wonder about the future of these 2 parties, especially Reform.
Whether you are a PAP supporter, an opposition supporter, or even political neutral, there is one thing everyone can agree on; With the victory by the WP last night, the political landscape of Singapore has now changed. For better or worse, every politician and political party in Singapore will need to adapt. How well they do so will have a direct effect on the next GE. It will be an interesting one.