The GRC Death Trap (Part II)

In Part I, I shared a brief history and the government's weak justifications of establishing the Group Representation Constituency system. Obviously, the GRC was drawn up as a political tool to help the PAP retain power rather than serve its said purposes.

The incumbent's favourite tactic is fielding one or two "heavy weight" ministers as the "anchor", relatively experienced MPs and slipping in new faces. The numbers selected for each category will depend on the GRC and the expected opposition contesting in it. If a walkover is expected, the maximum number of new faces will be pumped into the team to allow them a seat in parliament before a single vote is casted on election day. The GRC was designed to allow the PAP to never taste defeat again. Indeed, it was almost flawless and worked for almost two decades. Until......

Aljunied GRC
The price of "losing all" by fielding the best candidates to contest against the PAP in an GRC is a serious deterring factor that any opposition party has to deal with. Over the years, opposition parties had probed around with the system and found that the GRC moat was impermeable. In the last election, it was observed that opposition parties have realised the only way to stand a slightest chance of victory was to field the best team but risk paying the heavy price in defeat. There is simply no way around it. A surprising victory for the Worker's Party in Aljunied GRC would change the electoral history of Singapore forever.

There was a lot of discussions after Worker's Party's victory. Most of the discussion revolved around whether losing a "good PAP minister" in George Yeo was too heavy a price to pay for opposition voice in parliament. Amidst these discussions most of us forgot one thing - how is the PAP going to ever win back Aljunied GRC?

I would assume the Worker's Party team to remain unchanged to consolidate its position. Low Thia Khiang spent two decades in Hougang before leaving to contest in another ward so we would expect status quo in the lineup. After all, voters would not be happy if Worker's Party attempts to tweak anything and they probably know it. With that in mind, the GRC system that the PAP had cleverly designed has became an unlikely double edged sword. Aljunied GRC became the gun that is pointing the wrong way for the PAP. Under normal circumstances, the Worker's Party will never have won in that contest. However with many factors ranging from bad publicity of some PAP team members, a rare talent joining the WP team, a generally weak PAP performance in the years prior to election, PAP's underestimation of the impact of new media and so on. It was the perfect storm. The opposition now has that moat.

The PAP will not be able to field a stronger team than the one which lost to the Worker's Party 'A' team. Its former team comprises of two ministers, one MP touted to be the next Speaker of Parliament, a new face which was highly tipped to be a future minister and another MP to make up the number. If the PAP fields another team of such weight - and loses again, they'll be running out of ministers in a few elections to come. The GRC system that was meant to be their invincible fort has turned into a deathtrap.

Think about it. If you are the Prime Minister, you will have to make your decision among these choices.   One, to field all promising new faces aka 'suicide team' style against the WP 'A' team. It is highly doubtful this strategy is going to work at all. Two, fielding the previous team to fight it out. With George Yeo doing a disappearing act after his defeat and Cynthia Phua making herself more unpopular with her antics, it's hardly going to create any impact at all. Three, fielding a couple of out-going ministers and a new team. Are there any remaining outgoing ministers that are even popular among Singaporeans except for (maybe) Emeritus Goh Chok Tong? The Prime Minister's last option is to field a genuine PAP 'A' team comprising of one or two of its best Ministers and promising MPs. I'll leave you to draw up your PAP dream team. That doesn't matter because it will never happen.

Going by the recent Hougang by-election where the PAP had a rare opportunity to poach Hougang after an ugly YSL debacle, PAP disappointingly fielded Desmond Choo. If the PAP thought that Desmond Choo was their best candidate, it does not bode well for the men-in-white at all. Else, it simply reflected that the PAP was extremely conservative. If they could not even be adventurous enough in their approach to contest for a seat that they had already lost but given a second chance to win it back, they will never try to field a strong team aggressive enough to pose a serious challenge to the WP team in Aljunied GRC during the next election.

In short, they will never be able to win Aljunied GRC back - cleanly. It's back to the drawing board to, of course, redraw electoral boundaries. 

With surrounding GRCs and SMCs scoring uncomfortable slim 50+ % victories for the PAP, it could pose even the most creative member in the elections department some problems in drawing a good game plan for the next election. We might really see a West Coast-East Coast GRC perhaps. Expect the unexpected, they will take this very seriously indeed. An Aljunied GRC could equate to five losing PAP candidates in the next election if WP plays their cards right in the coming years. Imagine two GRCs falling into opposition hands. Or three. The backdoor to slot in weakly qualified candidates such as Miss Tin Pei Ling and military men will become narrower. Joining the PAP would not be such an attractive proposition if your first mission is to go up against the likes of Pritam Singh in a general election.

By now even Prime Minister Lee, wise as he is, would have realise the impact of losing a GRC to an opposition party. It isn't about the increase of opposition voices in Parliament, that is negligible. It is about how the GRC will be used against them in the future. I wish PM Lee all the fun drawing lines. If he fails to work out a decent solution, I won't be the slightest surprise if he comes out with new cheap schemes to support his cause. Cooling-down month perhaps. Or Internet censure. Maybe abolishing the GRC altogether and coming up with a repackaged fort to hide his party behind.

Interesting times ahead.


  1. Used to be one man's meat, now becomes same man's poison.
    After 23 years, what goes around has finally come around.
    This shows that planet earth is still round.

  2. Now we know your grey matter has been put to hard work during the drive to and fro from work :)

  3. unless something drastic happens to down under in the next 1 year or so, if not the liberal party will win the aussie federal general elections in 2013.

  4. You are assuming every GRC is fielded with a strong A team from Opposition to go against PAP, the incumbents.
    If it weren't for such heavyweights like LTK, SL, CSM against the PAP, the win (a slim margin) would be unthinkable.
    In other words, Opposition Party would have to field equally solid A team members.
    How many Opp Parties can you think of are able to do it?

  5. You too are assuming that the 60% who voted for PAP will remain faithful and happy with the PAP's policies. The other 40% are already unhappy as it is, what are the chances for them to be converted ?

  6. Their ultimate aim of having GRCs was to harm the winning chances of any opposition team. I suppose LKY wouldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams that it may turn against themselves.

    If he is dead, I supposed he would have turned in his own grave.

    1. Nothing would make me happier to see an Opposition A team take down and win over his ward Tanjong Pagar before he goes. He should see the hard truths of his empire crumbling before his eyes the same way he crushed too many opposition candidates and hurting their families along the way. Unless he repent before he meet his maker.

  7. Me think LKY wants his Maker to repent for not making him the king of SG & M'sia!

  8. hai lang hai ka ki

  9. Interesting analysis, never look at it from this point of view. Nevertheless, still think its gonna take a miracle if more GRCs will ever be won by the opposition......:(

  10. It's one the best articles I have read so far. Yes, PAP will have difficulty taking back Ajunied! It's not going to be easy. They started this rule and now it's their death trap! Karma! I just read Tan Jee Say's comments. GE2016 has begun. PAP's downfall is imminent. WP is poised to take over East Coast and Joo Chiat in next GE! The end is near for them! They are losing support from the locals. The whiter than white elites are hated by the citizens like never before. Just go to YouTube to look at the crowd and chanting at Blk 322 Hougang! It's time for a regime change. More than 50 yrs of PAP rule is enug. Time to kick them out. Useless o repaid ministers can even run the place well! Keep pulling wool over our eyes! KNN!

  11. I should be in Aust latest by 2016 so that I can renew my Aust PR for another 5 years.
    Though I dun stay in HG, Aljunied or the East side, I will definitely fly back to cast my one and only vote against PAP unless there is a walkover in my GRC which I doubt so.
    This is the least I as a born and bred singaporean can do for S'pore and my children beside completing my NS and reservist.