After the announcement of the changes in the Electoral Boundaries, most of the opposition parties have wasted no time in declaring their intention to contest in selected constituencies.  The Workers’ Party (currently the only opposition in Parliament) will be contesting for 28 seats.  Most of the parties that contested in the last elections are sticking to the areas that they have been working on.  The redrawn boundaries have created some friction amongst the parties as to which constituencies they should contest in as appears to be the case when it comes to Marine Parade GRC for instance where the NSP stood in the last elections.  WP wants to contest there partly because Joo Chiat SMC that it was working on has been absorbed into Marine Parade.

The new Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC is also throwing up a possibility of a 3-cornered fight because of the redrawn boundaries as NSP contested the Yew Tee ward when it was part of Choa Chu Kang GRC and the Marsiling area was part of Sembawang GRC where SDP contested in the last elections.

Another reason for the possibility of 3-cornered fights is that there are parties such as PPP and SingFirst that have been newly formed and they are staking a claim in areas that other parties have been focusing on since the last elections.

All this is to be expected as diversity of political views begins to take root.  One cannot expect a straightforward scenario of PAP against one dominant opposition party so soon.  That might emerge after this year’s elections but at this point in time, it is fair game for all the parties to try to stake a claim to be a voice in Parliament.

In an earlier post, I had identified the PAP’s weakest constituencies based on the last elections.  The following constituencies resulted in a vote share of less than 60% for the PAP.

Potong Pasir SMC                            –              50.36%

Joo Chiat SMC                                  –              51%

Punggol East SMC                            –              54.54%

East Coast GRC  (5 seats)               –              54.8%

Marine Parade GRC (5 seats)        –              56.6%

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (5 seats)  –              56.93%

Tampines GRC (5 seats)                  –              57.2%

Nee Soon GRC (5 seats)                 –              58.4%

Sengkang West SMC                       –              58.1%

Moulmein-Kallang GRC (4 seats)  –              58.55%

Mounbatten SMC                            –              58.62%

The biggest risks for the PAP are those that garnered 55% or less as these constituencies are vulnerable to a nationwide swing of 5%.

I will examine each of these areas taking into account the redrawn boundaries and the new constituencies

Potong Pasir SMC                            –              50.36%

This constituency remains unchanged and is definitely still in play as a likely opposition win.  The question is of the candidate to stand there.  A stronger candidate than Lina Chiam might pull it off.  I suspect that if Chiam See Tong had himself stood in Potong Pasir, he would have retained it despite his ill-health.  He is a well-loved person on the ground.  Three-cornered fights here will split the opposition vote and will be very damaging since the margin is so close.  Note that even in the 2006 elections Potong Pasir was close when Chiam won it with 55%.

It is arguable that a 3 cornered fight would result in opposition voters gravitating towards the stronger of the opposition parties.  SPP would have a natural ‘home ground’ advantage in Potong Pasir compared to any other party.  It is very likely that any other new opposition party making a foray into Potong Pasir would have to be prepared to lose the candidate’s deposit.  For those of us that hope for increased opposition representation in Parliament, the worry is that with the margin of votes being so close in 2011, even a 1% vote for a third party would damage the SPP’s chances of regaining the seat.

The DPP, led by Benjamin Pwee, has expressed interest in running at Potong Pasir.  My friendly suggestion to them is to work on another constituency and leave Potong Pasir.  It would be tactically imprudent to have a go here.

Joo Chiat SMC                                  –              51%

Marine Parade GRC (5 seats)        –              56.6%

Joo Chiat is no more and absorbed into Marine Parade. Marine Parade is reshaped with MacPherson being carved out as a new SMC.  Only the Elections Department and the ruling party know of the exact vote distribution in Marine Parade GRC in the last elections.  Many of us would have assumed that the rather low 56.6% garnered by the PAP was a result of the so-called ‘Tin Pei Ling effect’.  The natural assumption is that this GRC may have been weighed down by a negative position in MacPherson.

Conventional wisdom will tell us that if the PAP wanted to avoid losing another SMC, it wouldn’t carve out a weak SMC like MacPherson and would instead carve out some stronger polling districts.  Perhaps, MacPherson did not swing too much against the PAP and perhaps the PAP leadership might be confident of the work done by Tin Pei Ling on the ground.  Confident enough to carve it out as an SMC.

If the remaining 4 wards within Marine Parade GRC were, in fact, the stronger wards in the last elections, then absorbing Joo Chiat into Marine Parade would help the PAP avoid a loss of Joo Chiat.  I suspect that between the MacPherson and Joo Chiat, the latter may have secured a lesser percentage of votes for the PAP.

Marine Parade GRC, as it was before the redrawing of boundaries, was just outside the danger zone for the PAP on the assumption of a 5% swing against the PAP.

WP has declared its intention to contest in Marine Parade GRC primarily because it has been pursuing Joo Chiat SMC.  The NSP contested in Marine Parade in the last elections and is likely to want to contest there.  If either of the two parties don’t budge, it would be a 3 cornered fight there.  WP’s best chance of winning another constituency is in East Coast GRC and it would be tactically prudent for them to focus on retaining their existing seats and going all out for East Coast GRC and the SMCs that they are eyeing.  Leaving NSP to contest in Marine Parade GRC will be a better idea.

MacPherson SMC is going to be an unknown entity.  It is hard to say which way the votes would go here.  Early indications are that this may be a 3 cornered fight.   NSP has expressed interest because this was a constituency that it was gunning for since the last election.  WP has also expressed interest.  WP and NSP may need to work out some arrangement with regard to MacPherson and Marine Parade so as to avoid a 3 cornered fight in both areas.  Perhaps, NSP might agree to let go of MacPherson if WP compromises at Marine Parade GRC?

East Coast GRC  (5 seats)               –              54.8%

This is PAP’s most vulnerable GRC as it comes within the 5% margin that I referred to earlier.  After the boundaries were redrawn, this GRC’s boundaries have been retained largely intact except for the carving out of a single member constituency in Fengshan.   Raymond Lim is the PAP MP for Fengshan.  It is unclear whether Fengshan was a polling district with a higher vote share for the PAP.  In any event, the whole region of East Coast GRC including Fengshan is fair game for the WP since they have worked the ground there since the last elections.

None of the other opposition parties have expressed interest in East Coast GRC.  However, the DPP has expressed interest in Fengshan SMC.  Perhaps, in the negotiations between the opposition parties, Fengshan might be where WP may want to concede to DPP in order to avoid a 3 –cornered fight so that they can focus on the 4 member East Coast GRC.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (5 seats)  –              56.93%

This GRC falls outside the 5% margin although still vulnerable to a 7% swing.  The boundaries for this GRC have been redrawn and parts of the defunct Moulmein-Kallang have been absorbed into Bishan-Toa Payoh.

Both SPP and DPP are staking a claim in this GRC.  Although Chiam See Tong’s SPP has been around for a long time, the party is almost a one-man show.  It has been built too much around the personality of Mr Chiam.  That is the old-style opposition politics of JBJ and Chiam.  I doubt that voters will be influenced by that too easily these days.  DPP is building a fresh team and is likely to field capable candidates and they would do well to try and push for candidacy in this constituency.  SPP should focus on winning back Potong Pasir and DPP should perhaps take their hands off Potong Pasir and focus on Bishan-Toa Payoh.

Tampines GRC (5 seats)                  –              57.2%

This is also a constituency that is outside the 5% margin but it has attracted the attention of 3 opposition parties.  NSP, Singfirst and PPP have expressed interest setting up the possibility of a 4-cornered fight.  The possibility of a vote split that favours none of the parties is quite high.  With NSP being the most familiar party amongst the 3, they may be able to pull more voters towards them.  However, SingFirst or PPP with the ‘fresh’ faces might be more appealing to the opposition voters.  Any vote split here will be likely to wipe out any overall swing in favour of the opposition.

It is very unlikely that any effective trading can be done here between the parties and we may see at least a 3-cornered fight here though many of us would hope that this can be avoided.

Like a lot of opposition voters, I hope that all constituencies would produce a straight two way fight between the PAP and an opposition party.  However, it looks like it is inevitable that there will be a 3 cornered fight in a few constituencies even after negotiations amongst the opposition parties.

Here is a screengrab from Channelnewsasia as to the likely areas where a 3-cornered or 4-cornered fight might occur: