Since the Anson by-election in 1981, it has become something of a norm in Singapore that the opposition would stand a better chance of being elected than the PAP in a by-election in a Single-Member Constituency. However, things don’t appear to be so clear in the current by-election in Bukit Batok. Too many factors have been thrown into the mix to blur the crystal ball.
Firstly, let’s look at some numbers.
2015 General Elections:
Registered Voters – 27,077
Voter Turnout – 25,484
Rejected Votes – 545
Samir Salim – 150 (0.60%)
Sadasivam Veriyah (SDP) – 6,585 (26.40%)
David Ong Kim Huat (PAP) – 18,204 (72.99%)
Registered Voters – 25,727
I would imagine that the 1,593 voters that did not vote in the GE would have had their names removed from the electoral register. The number of Registered voters now is 25,727. That would represent 243 new voters. Nearly 1% of the electorate in Bukit Batok.
If SDP and Chee Soon Juan have any hopes of winning the Parliamentary seat, they have to convince at least another 6,279 residents to vote for SDP. This is on the assumption that the 6,585 that voted for the SDP in the last election will still vote for them in this by-election. Given the phenomenal success of the PAP at the last general elections, the 6,279 SDP voters probably represent the hardcore opposition voters that are found throughout the island and can be counted on to vote against he PAP no matter who is fielded as a candidate.
I don’t expect any slide of votes away from the SDP to the PAP. Given what we have come to recognise in Singapore as the ‘bye-election effect’, there is a high likelihood that there will be a swing against the PAP. The question is as to how large that swing can be. I swing of 5% is highly probable. A 6% to 10% swing will be difficult to accomplish, though not impossible. However, it is clearly going to be an uphill task to do that. When Lee Li Lian won the Pungol East by-election in 2013, the Workers’ Party secured a swing of 13.49% of votes in their favour. Such a swing would still not be sufficient for SDP to win the seat. SDP needs a 24% swing. When compared to recent by-elections, this looks like an impossibility.
In case you are wondering if any political party has managed such a large swing in a by-election, look no further than the Anson by-election of 1981 when the WP led by JB Jeyaretnam pulled off an upset. Anson had been won by PAP in the 1980 general election with Devan Nair obtaining 84.1% of the votes. In the 1981 by-elections, there was a 37% swing against the PAP that resulted in the historic win for the WP.
Will we see such a swing in Bukit Batok? Your guess is as good as mine and I am not taking bets.