Recently, the PAP announced its lineup of 89 candidates for each SMC and GRC for the upcoming general election to be held on 11 September 2015 (GE2015). Although the PAP said it would name 24 new candidates, I counted only 21 new candidates. I had deducted Koh Poh Koon from the list announced by CNA, as he had participated in the Punggol East by-election. Chan Hui Yuh and Kahar Hassan were not named as candidates for GE2015 despite strong signals they would run in Aljunied GRC.
The purpose of this post is to analyse how the PAP has deployed its candidates, to uncover the PAP’s outlook of winning a SMC or GRC. This is done by looking at the age of the candidates, how many years each candidate has served as an MP, and the replacement of candidates and comparing it against the previous election performance (GE2011). For GRCs, the average age and years in service as an MP is used, although there is a high degree of correlation between a candidate’s age and his/her years in service.
Loss of Aljunied GRC a defining moment
Many considered PAP’s loss of Aljunied GRC in GE2011 to be a defining moment because compared to an SMC, it has been a safe channel to bring new candidates into parliament. GRCs were introduced in 1988 after PAP for the first time, lost two seats in in the 1984 elections and since then, until GE2011, no GRCs had fallen into opposition control. Given the relative certainty of winning a GRC, candidates identified to have ministerial calibre have often entered parliament through a GRC.
With the loss of Aljunied GRC, it means that the PAP will now have to assessment the possibility of their GRC candidates not being elected, along with that for the SMCs. This leads me to believe that if the PAP is not confident of winning or winning back a GRC or SMC, it is unlikely to place new candidates that it considers important for the next parliament in that respective GRC or SMC. With respect to Aljunied GRC, I believe that the PAP will field a team that can run in elections after GE2015, because while it may not win at the first try, it may at the second time of asking. This has happened in Potong Pasir SMC.
Understanding PAP’s outlook for GE2015
The rest of the section will look at the profile of the PAP candidates lined up for GE2015.
The average of a PAP GE2015 candidate is 48.2 years. The youngest candidate is Tin Pei Ling (32, MacPherson SMC) and the oldest candidate is Goh Chok Tong (71, Marine Parade GRC). Most of the new candidates except for Chong Kee Hiong (47, Bishan Toa Payoh GRC) and Victor Lye (52, Aljunied GRC).
Slightly more than half the 89 candidates have not yet served as an MP or have served only one term. Another 18 candidates served three or four terms as MPs. Goh Chok Tong has served the longest as an MP for the current PAP candidate lineup (39 years), followed by Lee Hsien Loong (31), K Shanmugam (27) and Charles Chong (27).
Of the MPs, that are not running for GE2015, Wong Kang Seng (31 years) is the most senior, followed by Mah Bow Tan (27 years). Four MPs are not running for GE2015, having served only two terms. Lui Tuck Yew is the most prominent as he was the recent-past Transport Minister.
The next table below is the most interesting because it compares the data described above with the PAP’s performance in GE2011. Jalan Besar GRC, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and Tanjong Pagar GRC do not have GE2011 results because they are new or were not contested. Aljunied GRC is the only GRC to be under opposition control. The GRC most at risk of falling into opposition control is East Coast GRC, followed by Marine Parade GRC, Bishan Toa Payoh GRC and Tampines GRC. GRCs placed after Tampines GRC can be considered “relatively safe”.
PAP not confident of regaining Aljunied GRC
None of the previous candidates that stood in Aljunied GRC in GE2011 returned to contest in this GRC for GE2015, hence a 100% replacement rate. Ong Ye Kung, the only candidate from Aljunied GRC in GE2011 has been redeployed to Sembawang GRC. On the other hand, Yeo Guat Kwang has been redeployed from the relatively safe Ang Mo Kio GRC, into Aljunied GRC. None of the remaining four candidates have been described to possess minister qualities. Consistent with my beliefs, the PAP most likely feels that its chances of winning back the GRC are low. Given that the team is of the average age, it is very likely most of the team will return to run in Aljunied GRC in the next elections, should they not win in GE2015.
Using the replacement rates as an indicator, the most at-risk PAP GRC is East Coast GRC, followed by Marine Parade GRC, Tampines GRC and Bishan Toa Payoh.
PAP very cautious of retaining East Coast GRC, Marine Parade GRC
Should a 6.5% occur in GE2015 as it did on average against the PAP in GE2011, East Coast GRC will fall under opposition control. The candidates for East Coast GRC in GE2015 are the same as for GE2011 save for Raymond Lim, as his Fengshan ward has been carved out into an SMC. Without replacements, the East Coast GRC is also one of the older teams amongst all the other PAP GRCs. Consistent with my beliefs, the PAP is very cautious about its prospects of retaining the East Coast GRC. One minister and two ministers of state are at risk should East Coast GRC comes undone.
For Marine Parade GRC, the PAP has brought in Edwin Tong from the recently disbanded Moulmein-Kallang GRC. At the same time, Tin Pei Ling’s MacPherson ward has been carved into a SMC. With no new candidates introduced, aside from a redeployment, it suggest that the PAP is cautious of retaining Marine Parade GRC. The question remains, why Edwin Tong is brought in to the GRC.
PAP confident of retaining Tampines GRC
The replacement rate of 40% for Tampine GRC is not exceptional, with four other GRCs replacing the same proportion, six on an absolute basis. However, it remains at-risk due to the weak performance in GE2011 (fifth-worst).
PAP confident of retaining Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC
Despite being the fourth-worst performer at GE2011, the PAP has brought in three new candidates, one of which is likely to be a minister, former top civil servant Chee Hong Tat. After Aljunied GRC, it is the next GRC to have replaced its lineup, suggesting a high level of confidence.
Explaining Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC and Jalan Besar GRC?
Aside from East Coast GRC, Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC and Jalan Besar GRC are the only other two GRCs to field an unchanged lineup, although Jalan Besar GRC is a reconstituted constituency. Both GRCs can be considered relatively safe (using Moulmein-Kallang GRC as a proxy) and could be used to send in new candidates. One practical reason could be that there are no new candidates left to deploy, after factoring the Aljunied team. Furthermore, the PAP for GE2015 has not redeployed long serving MPs, except for Charles Chong (18) and Yeo Guat Kwang (27), who have been redeployed.
Among all the redeployed GRC candidates, except for Ong Ye Kung and Patrick Tay, all have been moved between adjacent wards. It only makes sense to redeploy a candidate from an at-risk GRC to one that is relatively safe if you wish to “protect” the candidate. Ong Ye Kung is an example. Swapping candidates between relatively safe GRCs that are non-adjacent will only confuse voters. Patrick Tay has been moved from Nee Soon GRC to West Coast GRC and given that both wards are relatively safe, his redeployment asks the question why one of the new candidates introduced in Nee Soon GRC for GE2015 could not be introduced via West Coast GRC
Fengshan will be the SMC to watch
Given the lack of room for manoeuvre at the SMC level, except for Fengshan SMC and Hougang SMC, no new candidates were introduced via the SMC route. As mentioned above also, Charles Chong is the only candidate that is an existing MP to be redeployed into a SMC. Given that Charles Chong is a long serving MP, we can guess that his deployment to Punggol East SMC is a calculated gamble. Fengshan SMC was carved out from Marine Parade GRC and the placing of a new candidate there suggests that the PAP is not so confident about its prospects in the SMC.