Residents were voting for PM and the status quo

* PAP win in Marine Parade GRC by-election
A DESIRE for the status quo and support for a personally popular Goh Chok Tong – these were two of the main reasons cited by some Marine Parade GRC voters when asked in a straw poll what accounted for the solid PAP victory in last Saturday’s by-election.

Almost all of the 95 residents interviewed said that they had voted for the PAP as it was the Prime Minister himself who was up for re-election.

Apart from Mr Goh’s popularity, the vast majority said they voted for the PAP as they felt a defeat for the Prime Minister would have brought needless political and economic difficulties for the country.

About one in three said that while they wanted more opposition in Parliament, losing a Prime Minister, and perhaps even the Government, was too high a price to pay for this.

The majority of those interviewed thought that the opposition might have fared better if the by-election had been held in another ward or GRC.

But most felt that its share of the vote would not have been much higher if the Workers’ Party had joined the fray in Marine Parade GRC.

These were the key findings of a straw poll of 95 residents from the Marine Parade, Joo Chiat, Geylang Serai and MacPherson wards carried out by The Straits Times over the last two days.

Residents were asked what factors they thought had swayed voters towards the PAP, which polled 72.9 per cent of the valid votes cast.

The Singapore Democratic Party polled 24.5 per cent, while the other two contenders, the National Solidarity Party and the Singapore Justice Party, managed only about a little above 1 per cent of the valid votes and lost their deposits.

The general sentiment among those interviewed was summed up best by engineer Kishor Mistry, 44, who felt that people were voting for the status quo.

He said: “The PAP is a good government. They have ensured Singapore’s prosperity and I think they will safeguard this. So, why should we change it for something we are not sure of?”

But apart from the PAP’s track record and campaign platform, many felt that it was Mr Goh himself who had won votes for his party.

Said a retired principal, a resident of Marine Parade for 15 years, who declined to be named: “He has been our MP for 16 years and he is a very nice man. He is humble and sincere. So surely we will vote for him, right?”

This view was shared by many residents in Marine Parade, which Mr Goh has represented since the ward was created in 1976.

Many felt that voters had been swayed by the political rallies, especially since many speeches were made in dialects.

In particular, the two rally speeches by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who urged voters not to undermine the PM’s authority by voting for the opposition, were singled out. Many said Mr Lee’s remarks had a big impact on voters, especially the older ones in areas like MacPherson.

One of them, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, 52, who owns a satay stall in Macpherson, said: “Mr Lee is the one who built up Singapore. When he says something, his words have a lot of impact. People will listen to him.”

But why did the large crowds of supporters at opposition rallies not translate into votes?

Many felt that the crowds had gone to those rallies just to take in the political spectacle. One of them, electrician Eddie See, 33, an SDP voter, said: “Many people just came to listen. But when it comes to voting, they were still very conservative and voted PAP.”

Several said that they had attended opposition rallies as they felt they were not getting enough coverage of these in the local media.

Others, however, argued that the opposition’s poor showing stemmed from its failure to put forward alternative policies and convince the electorate that it could do a better job than the PAP.

As one of them, undergraduate Lyn Yin Mei, 25, put it: “I am for a two-party system. But I still voted for the PAP because I am not very sure that the opposition parties are capable of doing what the PAP has achieved.”

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