This by-election is for residents of Hougang to vote for their member of parliament. On the surface, it seems like it doesn’t concern anyone else in Singapore. But quite the contrary, this by-election continues to be ever important for everyone in Singapore. The scale of the election is certainly smaller, but it is not any less important. National issues continue to be relevant in this by-election.
Residents of Hougang may be feeling a heavy burden. On the one hand, it is their constituency, and they have every right to want to take care of their own interests first. But the reality is that things aren’t so straight-forward. Residents of Hougang are also citizens of Singapore, and many issues they face are the same as any other citizen in Singapore.
I do not stay in Hougang, and I cannot attest to the ability of the Worker’s Party to run its town council. But, I believe, they have not failed. WP would not have continued to win Hougang if they had disappointed their residents. At the same time, should the People’s Action Party take over Hougang, I do not believe they can’t deliver as well as the WP can. To me, whichever party takes Hougang makes little difference on how the constituency is run.
Which candidate, WP’s Png Eng Huat, or PAP’s Desmond Choo, can serve Hougang residents better? Both have never been voted in before, and thus have little track record to talk about. However, it can be argued that Mr Choo has been “in” Hougang far longer than Mr Png has.
Perhaps that’s the reason why Mr Choo wants us to know that “I am my own man”. Mr Choo is telling residents to vote for the best man, on the account of that person himself. Don’t get distracted by the backdrop of political parties. After all, having been served by WP for so many years, Mr Choo realizes that Hougang residents will have no qualms to vote WP’s man. It’s status quo to them. Perhaps he figured he stood a better chance if he was compared with WP’s Png Eng Huat man-to-man. His attachment with the PAP could be more of a burden in his contest to win Hougang. Mr Choo, however, did quite badly in the last General Election. Is it the man, or the party, that Hougang residents were dissatisfied with?
On the matter of national issues, do you think either man will do better or worse than the other in Parliament? Mr Choo will probably toe the party line. Mr Png can offer alternative views, but will his voice matter at all?
This by-election is totally different from the last General Election. Most Singaporeans agree the opposition is not ready to run the government. However, many Singaporeans are dissatisfied with the ruling party. At the last General Election, many Singaporeans could have felt themselves in a quandary. You want to support the opposition, but at the same time, you cannot afford to let the ruling party lose too much to become unable to run the government effectively.
This time around, things are much more straight-forward. It is just one seat in Parliament. There is no risk in upsetting the composition of Parliament. There are no cabinet positions are at risk. Thankfully the PAP did not send in a heavyweight to upset the balance in the by-election.
So, to me, this by-election is going to serve as a mid-term performance report, albeit a very early one, on the progress made by the ruling party in this term. Vote WP, you’re signaling your continuing dissatisfaction with the ruling party. Vote PAP, and you’re signaling approval of the progress made by the ruling party.