Before polling, I made my prediction to close friends. I posted that prediction on my personal Facebook before counting results came in, at around 10 pm on polling night. I didn’t post it publicly before voting ended because I did not want my predictions to influence voting. My post was:
Now that counting is underway and I am just back from shopping, let me share what I had predicted to close friends:
TT will take around 60% of PAP votes. TJS will take 60% of Opp votes. TCB takes most of the rest (40% of both PAP and Opp). That means TT may win TCB narrowly. TJS will do reasonably well but hard to cross 25%. Winner will have less than 40% overall, maybe around 36%. Sorry, TKL. You tried.
Based on the GE2011 results, that would mean 60% x 60% = 36% for Dr Tony Tan, 60% x 40% = 24% for Mr Tan Jee Say. Based on GE2011 3-corner fight result, I felt Mr Tan Kin Lian could garner around 5-6% of the votes only, which would have left Dr Tan Cheng Bock with around 34-35%, a close second.
The final result was amazingly close, closer than I had imagined.
I based my prediction on a fairly crude model. Being a political person, I now have access to many people who volunteered to tell me who they are voting. I must have met or had Facebook and email exchanges with over 100 people. I scanned the social media such as TOC and TRE to gauge sentiments.
I asked 2 key questions: (1) Who are you voting for and (2) which party do you normally vote for in GEs. In many cases, I did not even need to ask the second question as many that I interact with are in the opposition camp. Most volunteered to tell me the reasons for their choice as well.
While PE is not supposed to be a political contest, it nevertheless reflects the political desires of the people with proxy fights based on political ideologies.
The results were (after some generalisation of reasons):
- I found around 40% of PAP voters going for TCB. Those who would go for TCB may have some personal interactions with him previously or felt that he was truly sincere about his mission and had the heart for the people. They expressed reservations about why TT was in the race. Those who would go for TT felt he was best qualified or would simply vote for him because they knew he was the official choice of the PAP. I found no PAP supporters willing to go for TJS or TKL.
- The opposition side is split between TJS and TCB. The moderate opposition supporters were inclined towards TCB. The vocal opposition supporters went for TJS. I met more TCB supporters on the opposition camp than TJS supporters. However, I knew my circle of interaction had more moderate supporters. From my scan of the vocal online media such as TRE and TOC and looking at TOC’s survey, I felt after accounting for the more vocal group, around 60% of those who voted opposition in GE2011 would go for TJS. I found almost none that would go for TT (yes, I said almost none, because there were a small handful that felt PE should be about the person rather than political ideologies and they went for TT despite voting opposition in GEs).
- I found few TKL supporters. He was the second choice of a number of people. Those who felt strongly that they could not support any former PAP senior members would pick TJS first and TKL second. Those who felt we should not have an aggressive president but could not support TT because he was the choice of the PAP would pick TCB first and TKL second. Unfortunately, there is no prize for being second in the one-vote system. Based on this, I used the percentage from Punggol East 3-cornered fight in GE to predict a slightly better votes’ percentage share for TKL than Desmond Lim.
- Most of the opposition supporters’ dilemma centred around choosing TJS or TCB. It was a fluid situation that changed with additional press and online reports, debates and media broadcasts. These were for votes from the moderate opposition camp.
The final result shows a number of things:
- There is currently a base of around 36% who would support PAP rock solid. Hougang’s result in GE2011 sort of reflected this. Hougang is the strongest opposition base with a young rookie PAP candidate contesting. Desmond Choo’s 36% reflected the percentage of people that are solidly behind whatever PAP do. In Alex Au’s Yawningbread recent blog, he shared a story of several elderly ladies in a coffeeshop talking about how they would vote. One said that it was simple. Just go into the poll and look for the lightning symbol! They do not care about the other candidates. Just go for the lightning. In this case, go for the person implicitly representing the party’s choice. Hence, the clever use of unions and associations to support a candidate. It is a proxy to the party’s choice and the mainstream media would dutifully publicise the endorsement. It is not to force their members to vote en-bloc but to indicate to the ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ PAP supporters who the establishment’s choice is.
- There is a vocal opposition group of supporters who will always choose the one who is the most anti-PAP. That vote went to TJS. However, given that TJS did have a good career track record, he pulled in some votes from the middle ground as well. However, by positioning himself as the opposition-type, he could not draw votes from the usual PAP voters, which meant it was impossible for him to win but he would finish well.
- There’s a moderate ground prepared to accept a good compromise candidate. TCB represented this middle ground. He could pull in voters from both the opposition and PAP camps. TCB marketed himself as an independent-minded guy with the capabilities to fit the office.
- There is no fourth group. TKL appealed to none of the above groups as their first choice. Second choice does not count!
PE2011 offered analysis not possible in GE because:
- There was only one 3-corner fight in GE where the choices were obvious: either for PAP or for the strongest opposition proposition.
- The candidates in PE2011 have credible track records, having to go through a stringent PEC qualification. Three of the candidates positioned themselves nicely into the pro-PAP, pro-opposition and middle ground. That is something we did not have in GE.
- Voting in PE is across the whole country making it like a referendum on the agenda presented by the candidates. In a GE, there are differences between political parties in their ideologies and also in the slate of candidates. That makes it more difficult to compare results across constituencies.
Having said all these, we follow the first-past-the-post election system. Even if it was by a single vote, the winner takes all.
Dr Tony Tan is the 7th president of Singapore. Let us congratulate Dr Tony Tan, whatever your political ideologies may be. He will enter the office with a burden to bridge the divide in expectations. It is useful to study why Dr Tan Cheng Bock was popular enough to garner 35% of the votes despite the tough 4-cornered competition that had damaged his chances much more than it did for Dr Tony Tan. TCB represents something significant for the people of Singapore – a desire for a president that has passion for the people and independence to check the government, when it is necessary. The fact that he could draw strong supporters and votes from both the opposition and the PAP camps was amazing. It showed that what he stood for had the chance to unify a political divided country.
I did not vote for the late president Ong Teng Cheong because of political ideologies. But he won my respect during his term in office for proving that he truly could cast aside his political baggage and challenge the government when it mattered. I am prepared to do likewise for Dr Tony Tan.
To Dr Tan Cheng Bock, congratulations for putting up an honourable contest. You have demonstrated that it is possible to rally people from both side of the political divide. I am reminded of Al Gore, who lost a bitterly close election to be president of the United States of America to George Bush. It must have been really shattering for him to win the popular votes but not the electoral college and even so by technical problems with the automated counting system. Yet Al Gore bounced back to make himself useful championing causes he believes in.
So, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, even though you are not our president, I hope you will continue in this work that you have started.