It was a gruelling campaign that lasted for more than a month – both parties began walking the ground soon after David ‘Indiscretion’ Ong resigned as MP.
Well, the dust has settled. The verdict is out. The voters of Bukit Batok have made their decision.
PAP’s Murali Pillai won by clinching 61.2% of the vote, while SDP’s Dr Chee Soon Juan received 38.8% of the vote.
Dr Chee’s results seem respectable at first, given that he had to fight against waves and waves of attacks from various personalities, ranging from the Chiams, Dr Lee Wei Ling to Minister Grace Fu, DPM Tharman and PM Lee Hsien Loong.
But the amount of attacks on Dr Chee also shows that he is tainted goods. Despite his best effort to rehabilitate his image since the 2015 GE, the result in Bukit Batok shows that it is simply not working well enough.
He had everything going for him. It was a By-Election caused by a personal indiscretion from a PAP MP. It was a straight fight, with the by-election effect in his favour after the ruling party’s strong showing at GE2015. It pitted Chee against a lesser-known candidate of a minority race. But it wasn’t enough.
What’s more, in his bid to make himself more electable by being more catch-all, Dr Chee also moved towards the political centre by putting his party’s liberal ideology on the back foot this campaign.
Instead, he chose not to elaborate on them – he had a chance to restate his party’s position on the Internal Security Act (ISA), but simply brushed the issue aside when asked by journalists. Many, like blogger Kirsten Han, who support Dr Chee and the SDP do so because the party is perceived to be unwavering in staying true to its principles. So they must be disappointed with Dr Chee.
They must even be more disappointed that the shift in Dr Chee’s political stance didn’t pay off.
Dr Chee’s defeat in Bukit Batok is the fifth in his 24-year long political career. (see below for the results of his other contests)
1992 BE: Marine Parade GRC (24.5% of the vote)
1997 GE: MacPherson SMC (34.9%)
2001 GE: Jurong GRC (20.3%)
2015 GE: Holland-Bukit Timah GRC (33.4%)
Surely, this most recent defeat must show that Dr Chee is very unelectable? He has been in charge of SDP since 1993, and has nothing to show for. In contrast, look at what Mr Low Thia Khiang achieved with WP. And Mr Low only took over WP in 2001! It appears Chee has some way to go before they can play with the big boys – the PAP and the WP.
It is quite clear to me that there is a compelling argument that SDP is going nowhere under Dr Chee’s leadership. He should realise that he is becoming a liability for his party, and make way willing for someone to take over as Secretary-General. (No, I’m not suggesting that Dr Chee should retire from politics completely.)
And the best man for the SDP Secretary-General position is none other than Dr Paul Tambyah. Tambyah may not be that seasoned a politician and makes clumsy comments at times. But public opinion on him is very positive – most people know that he is a good, decent man whose heart is at the right place.
Tambyah is a good choice, and the right man to take over SDP from Chee.
However, knowing Dr Chee and his obsession with power, we know that such a scenario is very unlikely.
But SDP’s dismal show in the past 23 years under Chee’s leadership means that SDP rank-and-file need to do some serious reflection, and do the right thing if they want their party to have a brighter future in Singapore’s political scene.