The dust has settled, the people of Bukit Batok have spoken. With 61.2% of the votes, Mr Murali has been elected as the MP for Bukit Batok. There have been many analyses of what the results mean. But above all of them, I think what’s topmost on people’s mind is what this means for the political future of Dr Chee Soon Juan.
Dr Chee has now lost in all five elections that he has contested in. At 38.8%, this is his best result. Some people say that it bodes well. It shows that he is gaining traction, more people are willing to support him, and he is inching ever closer to finally becoming an MP. I think those people are wrong.
SDP had a swing of close to 13% compared to their performance in Bukit Batok GE2015. That is comparable to the swing of 12% that Ms Lee Li Lian got in the Punggol East by-election. But we need to also note that SDP’s candidate in GE2015 was Sadasivam Veriyah. Who? Who’s Sadasivam Veriyah? So it’s not surprising that Dr Chee did better than Mr Sadasivam, who’s virtually unknown politically.
In GE2015, Dr Chee was in the team that contested in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. The team won about 33%. So one can argue that Dr Chee’s swing this time round is only about 6%. Considering that this was a by-election, this is actually quite a terrible performance.
Why? Two reasons. First, this by-election was needed because David Ong, who was elected as MP for Bukit Batok in GE2015, screwed up (or rather he screwed someone he shouldn’t have). Secondly, Singaporeans are assured that PAP will remain the government even if Dr Chee is elected.
Of course, supporters of SDP and Dr Chee are quick to jump to his defence. It’s all the gutter politics! It’s all the character assassination! That’s why SDP didn’t do better!
Then there’s the explanation that Dr Chee gave for his poor showing. Singapore isn’t a true democracy. Singaporean media is shit. The journalists are all out to get him. He said this (translated from Chinese):
“If the media didn’t use such methods to attack us, I think we would have a very good chance…If it is a fair and democratic society, we would have a very good chance in entering parliament… If the media had standards, you (referring to the journalist who were interviewing him after the results were announced) would have been fired. Really… I really cannot understand your headlines…How can you take words that I didn’t say and claim I’ve said them? Lee Hsien Loong has made such a big issue out of it. You need to go and seriously reflect on what you have done.”
There is some truth in what Dr Chee said. Singaporean media is largely shit. Especially Wanbao and Shin Min. They would twist people’s words and sensationalise things. That is their modus operandi.
If we are to accept that these reasons given for Dr Chee’s loss are correct, then what does this mean for Dr Chee and the SDP? If the reality is that character assassinations of Dr Chee, either by PAP or by mainstream media, hurts SDP’s chances of winning elections, then what should Dr Chee do, if he really wants SDP to have MPs?
SDP can do one of two things.
First, SDP could try to “inoculate” Singaporeans against character assassinations of Dr Chee. They can do that by really going the extra mile to show Singaporeans that they are a credible party. They need to do this not only by putting out policy papers, but also walk the ground early and show that they can somehow do some things that benefit Singaporeans in concrete ways.
Secondly, SDP can accept that Dr Chee’s past is too much of a liability. Politics is dirty. Singaporeans are conditioned in a certain way. Even if things are changing, it will still take a long time before things change enough. So for the best interest of SDP, Dr Chee should consider giving up his
delusions aspirations of being an MP. He should then focus on grooming a new core group to lead SDP, then step aside and play a supporting, advisory and mentoring role.
Or SDP could do both. Which I think will greatly improve its chances of having MPs. So… perhaps it is really time to say “Bye, Dr Chee, Bye!”