Popular Senior Minister Wins by Weak Margin; Young Candidate Blamed

(Original stories at Channel News Asia and The Straits Times here and here respectively.)

Singapore’s recent general elections has seen the ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), has lost an unprecedented number of seats in Parliament. Two Cabinet Ministers and a junior minister have lost their seats, along with two backbenchers, one of whom was slated to be the next Speaker of Parliament.

Tin Pei Ling, the PAP’s youngest candidate in this election at 28, has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Soon after she was introduced as a candidate, a video of her at a PAP event surfaced on YouTube, and citizens criticized her for being immature and silly.

Some of her Facebook pictures were then published on an anti-PAP website, along with really awkward questions on her private life. Particularly unhelpful to her and the PAP cause were the fact that she had uploaded on Facebook pictures of herself posing cheekily with designer clothing, as well as her birthday celebration with her husband in an expensive restaurant in Tokyo. Questions were asked about her ability to empathize with the less fortunate segments of society – people whom she would be serving if elected as Member of Parliament (MP).

In Singapore, most constituencies and seats are contested on a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) basis – four to six seats are merged into one mega-constituency and the electorate in each GRC votes for an entire slate of candidates. It’s a winner-take-all system, similar to the electoral college votes system in most states in the United States.

Tin Pei Ling ran as a member of Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s GRC, whose team won with only 56.7% of the votes, as compared to 72.9% the last time that GRC was contested in 1992. The winning margin this time round is even lower than the national average of 60.1% for the PAP.

The Senior Minister is a very popular former prime minister, and he has acknowledged that Tin Pei Ling may have been a factor for the weak mandate. Tin Pei Ling is not the first, and neither will she be the last, politician whose career lives and dies by social media. It will only get more interesting from now on.

GE: Tin Pei Ling “a factor” for weak results, says SM Goh

By Timothy Ouyang | Posted: 08 May 2011 2016 hrs

SINGAPORE: Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said the negative publicity around Ms Tin Pei Ling was one factor to the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) weaker performance at Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

Mr Goh added the party needs to change from both a top-down and bottom-up approach.

He said: “I was expecting, to be frank, slightly better results but we were prepared for this kind of results because it’s a new situation.

“You know that there is a sea change in the political landscape. It’s a new landscape. We can feel the tide. People want to have alternative voices in Parliament. So, that tide was very strong”.

Mr Goh was speaking to reporters after his team’s victory parade around Marine Parade GRC on Sunday morning.

Marine Parade GRC had been uncontested since 1992. In that year, the PAP won 72.9 per cent of votes – compared to 56.7 per cent in this General Election.

Mr Goh said national issues, such as cost of living and housing, weighed on voters’ sentiment.

The negative publicity around Ms Tin added to the result.

Tin Pei Ling, of course, was a factor as well,” Mr Goh said.

“Rightly or wrongly, she has been given that negative image from the very start — but maybe because of her youth as well.

“I mean, she was a factor. Nicole Seah was also a factor. (Ms Seah) communicated very well. She spoke quite persuasively to the younger people as well as some older people.

“So, I could sense that quite a few people supported her. So both were factors”.

Already, some 37,000 people have signed an online petition on Facebook to remove Ms Tin as an MP.

Mr Goh said it is not Ms Tin’s fault in wanting to be an MP.

“They thought it’s all Tin Pei Ling’s fault. It’s not,” Mr Goh said.

“The PAP wanted to have a representative slate. She came in on that basis by the PAP.

“We knew that she was young but we know that she will grow. I think that’s the key.

“We wanted her. If there’s anything, we knew that she would be young and inexperienced but we are quite happy.

“And the main thing is she has got through. And that’s the reason why people are unhappy – that such a young and inexperienced person has got through.

“In politics, it’s transcient. We have five years. If after five years, Tin Pei Ling remains what she is, then of course, she would still be a factor at the next election.

“But at this stage, looking at her action, in three years time, she would be a different Tin Pei Ling”.

Meanwhile, Ms Tin said: “I would like to start small, from within MacPherson, because now I am an elected MP for MacPherson, so that would still be my priority for now.

“I hope that through my action, my work in MacPherson, that can be used as a start for me to prove myself and to gain the trust of Singapore”.

Moving forward, Mr Goh said he will work on creating a better social environment on top of coming up with solutions to the national issues weighing on Singaporeans.

He said he recognises that there is currently a gap, especially in the way the PAP engages the young.

Mr Goh said he would like to engage with youths across the community, and not only with student leaders or youths who hold positions in society.

Mr Goh also said he hopes team member Tan Chuan-Jin can take the lead in further engaging Singaporeans.

Mr Tan said: “At the end of it, it’s not a top-down approach where you tell people what to do.

“I think we need to talk about it. At some point, decisions need to be made. So, I think that is something that we all need to do.

“But the thing is, how do we bring people on board, how do we bring our community forward. I think that’s critical.

“Individuals will have their perspectives. I think it is for us to rally as a team to create shared perspectives, have a shared vision, because ultimately, it has to be a collective effort.

“It’s no point having one person saying this, and another person saying that.

“Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. It’s what you do, it’s not just what you say. It needs to translate down to every aspect of whatever that is going to happen on the ground”.

Mr Goh’s team won by a margin of 13.3 per cent against the National Solidarity Party.

MAY 8, 2011

SM Goh expects team to do better

By Jermyn Chow
WE CAN do better the next time.

This is the new challenge Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has set for his team in Marine Parade GRC after they secured a lower-than-expected winning margin in Saturday’s election.

‘I was expecting, to be frank, slightly better result,’ said SM Goh, speaking to reporters after a thank you tour of his constituency on Sunday morning.

His People’s Action Party teammates, comprising two-term MPs Seah Kian Peng and Fatimah Lateef, and two new faces former army general Tan Chuan-Jin and business consultant Tin Pei Ling, edged out their National Solidarity Party opponents, garnering 56.7 per cent of the votes in the first contest there in 19 years.

This was well below the ruling party’s 60.1 national average.

In a by-election in the GRC in 1992, Mr Goh’s team secured 72.9 per cent of the vote, and in the 1991 general election, the PAP team also trounced the opposition with 77.2 per cent.

On the lower margin in Saturday’s polls, SM Goh conceded that Ms Tin, 27, was ‘a factor’ that might have dragged down the PAP’s vote share.

‘Rightly or wrongly, she has been given a negative image from the very start. But maybe because of her youth as well,’ said SM Goh, even as he thinks she is able to reach out and engage the young.

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Author: Nicholas

Experienced Mortgage Banker at Colorado State Bank and Trust. Effectively bilingual in English and Mandarin Chinese. Expert on real estate market in the Front Range.

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