In a closer look at the recent cabinet changes and the so-called preparation for A Team, the PAP is preparing to lose at least one GRC and hopefully, the decline in popularity can be stopped by the passing and remembering of LKY.
Since GE 2011, the PAP’s popularity has declined. The unpopular Population White Paper, the Little India Riot, the illegal strike of bus drivers, and many other social issues, e.g the SengKang West, rat problems ...etc. have pushed down the PAP’s popularity to below 60%. The passing of LKY has helped to pull up to the support to GE2011 level. Even with 60% support, the PAP can still lose a GRC or more if wrong strategies are applied or some unlucky things (for example, major breakdown of MRT or internet) happen.
What are the strategic implications for this 5th cabinet changes?
PM Lee may be honest and he is showing us the PAP’s 4th generation A Team: Chan Chun Sing, Tan Chuan-Jin, Heng Swee Keat (not affected by the change), Masagos Zulkifli, and perhaps, Liu Tuck Yew. Lim Swee Say as a toothpick minister can be re-used if voters in East Coast GRC give his team another chance. Otherwise, the PAP is preparing to lose this GRC.
The ministers, affected by the recent cabinet changes, are all sitting members of parliament in the hotly contested GRCs in GE2011. These are East Coast, Tampines, Moulmein-Kallang, Marine Parade, and Tanjong Pagar. Chan CS and Tan CJ will have to lead the teams without LKY and Goh Chok Tong respectively. Tanjong Pagar will see the first election after more than 20 years.
The lead ministers in each of the involved GRCs are and will be:
East Coast: Lim Swee Say
Tampines: Heng Swee Keat and Masagos Zulkifli
Moulmein-Kallang: Yaacob Ibrahim and Liu Tuck Yew
Marine Parade: Tan Chuan-Jin
Tanjong Pagar: Chan Chun Sing
Besides Tanjong Pagar, all these GRCs are located in the east of Singapore and are expected to see life-death competition in the coming GE. These are the GRCs most likely to see further breakthroughs for the opposition.
Traditionally, a GRC will at least have one PAP minister. Even though Lim Swee Say is stepping (and resigning from NTUC) down from his NTUC post, PM Lee still wants to keep him rather than let him retire totally like Wong Kang Seng or Mah Bow Tan. East Coast is vulnerable and it will most likely face the B Team from Workers’ Party. However, it still needs a lead minister. By injecting a new minister or adding another minister will not change the balance but risk losing one more minister.
Hence, it is better to leave the toothpick minister there. It will be a bonus if voters decide to re-use the toothpick another time and helps the PAP MPs retain their seats. Otherwise, the PAP is psychologically preparing to lose East Coast. On strategy, it is losing small (toothpick, peanut) but retaining the big (4th generation A Team).
Tampines, Marine Parade and Moulmein-Kallang are all expected to see very tough competition. Perhaps, PM Lee will request Goh Chok Tong to stand again and so all three GRCs will have two ministers or one minister plus a former PM. The PAP is using these three GRCs as defence to prevent the spread of oppositions into other part of Singapore.
How strong is the defence? Will there be another ‘dangerous’ GRC for the PAP?
Tanjong Pagar is an uncontested GRC. Although a stronghold of the PAP due to LKY, no one can really assess correctly the electoral mood there. In addition, Chan Chun Sing is a controversial figure, especially in social media. In military term, this paper general may need additional support fire and heavy equipment but from where? Who can help him?
If the PAP fails to defend these 5 GRCs, the 4th generation A Team will be gone. If they only lose East Coast, the A Team will be saved. If they only retain half of the remaining four, then half of the A Team is gone.
When we look closer at this so-called A Team, do you think they deserve to remain there? If not, which GRCs would you like to see the change? Many will agree, even the PAP supporters, to let Lim Swee Say go. He is not in the A Team, just a toothpick. In the social media, netizens will pick Chan Chun Sing and Liu Tuck Yew.
PM Lee presents his A Team as a defence to his continuing rule. He is preparing to lose small in East Coast. If the political mood is not in his favour, he wants the A Team to defend and contain the spread of oppositions. This is his simple calculation. If A Team is able to defend their GRCs, fine, PM Lee can continue to lead the government. If A Team fails to defend their GRCs, PM Lee can still be a PM with a reduced majority. This perhaps is a better outcome for him. Without A Team, without succession, PM Lee can extend his retirement further.
Now, do you have a better understanding of the cabinet change and A Team? And maybe a clearer picture of PM Lee’s succession strategy? The lose or win of A Team will not affect PM Lee position if the silent majority in the PAP remains silent. A Team as a political succession plan is not as simple as what you read in the mainstream media. It has a double meaning which the MSM only tells you the half truth and ignoring the voice of silent majority within the PAP.
It is a win-win situation for PM Lee. However, is it a win-win situation for the PAP as a sustainable political identity? To a large extent, it is also a win-win question for Singapore. People inside and outside the PAP will have to watch the strategic options of PM Lee closely.
The story of Singapore joining Malaysia and then leaving Malaysia was a win-win situation for LKY and his PAP. But was it a win-win situation for people in Malaysia and Singapore?