WP has once again proven to be a shrewd political party. Firstly, Lee Li Lian is a safe candidate that stands a reasonable chance to win, but will not cost WP anything if she loses. And at its most recent rally, WP has chosen the excellent voter strategy of focusing on the undecided votes in the middle ground.
Broadly speaking, Singapore’s voter population can be split into 3 broad categories. (This proportion is estimated from the 2011 Presidential Elections):
- ~25% of anti-PAP/establishment voters
- ~35% of pro-PAP voters
- ~40% of undecided middle-ground voters
The WP knows that the same message cannot be used to woo the middle-ground and the anti-PAP voters concurrently:
- The anti-PAP voters will buy any amount of PAP-bashing, and is likely to vote for an opposition party that promises a quick and drastic change from the current PAP status quo .
- The middle-ground voters are likely to react adverse to overly-heavy anti-establishment behavior. The middle-ground recognises that although the PAP has done well in some areas, there is still more room for improvement. These voters are likely to vote for parties that promise change as long as change does not happen too quickly.
The WP also knows that it need not spend too much effort winning the anti-PAP vote. The WP is likely to get a decent bite of the anti-PAP votes even if they did nothing, because the WP already commands excellent branding over its RP and SDA competitors. This branding advantage was further bolstered by winning the Hougang by-election. If you want proof of this statement, simply compare the popularity of the WP and RP rallies. (SDA didn’t even bother to organise a rally.)
In any case, the relative population of the anti-PAP voters is smaller than the middle-ground, so the smart politician will want to focus its efforts on the voters that give the greatest reward. This explains the WP’s two-prong message to voters. The first prong is that the PAP has made mistakes and should be punished for it. The second prong is that the PAP should be given time to change, and that WP is not a party that is out to “sink the Singapore boat”.
While WP has made the rationale choice of wooing the middle ground, it does so at the risk of alienating the anti-PAP crowd. It does not take a genius to see that the most vocal voices in our online community come from the anti-PAP crowd, and there has been growing concern in the online community that the WP has failed to perform in Parliament. There is a risk that the WP will eventually be seen as a “PAP B-team” that is in cahoots with the ruling party. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the WP would entirely lose the votes of the anti-PAP crowd. The opposition parties will likely horse-trade to avoid a multi-corner fights during general elections. If each GRC/SMC is placed with a simple choice of PAP vs one opposition party, then the anti-PAP crowd will clearly vote for the opposition, even if it is an under-performing opposition.