03 September 2015

Modelling the 2015 Singapore general elections II

Despite expectations, the PAP hasn't run its LKY nostalgia campaign yet.
But did you know the PAP has no viable campaign to run in 2015?
In our previous post in this special GE2015 series, we looked at political systems that are dominated by one single ruling party. In particular, we examined the key characteristics of a dominant party: how it affects the rational choices made by voters in the polling booth, and how minor political parties position themselves to voters.

In a post that's somewhat less accessible than Jeraldine Phneah's, Roy Ngerng claims that a 10-year general election cycle will put Lee Hsien Loong's PAP on its best result so far in 2015, all things being equal.

Over at Illusio, we would gently remind his readers (and ours) of the dangers of spurious correlations that are created by poor and haphazard application of statistics. In fact, we put to you that 2015 may well bring in the worst result for the PAP under Minilee so far.

And we do that by going back to first principles. Because we're great fans of first principles.

Recall the utility graph for voters in a dominant party system. Given a ruling party with extreme dominance, every general election is functionally a plebiscite on the ruling party. Has the ruling party delivered? Is its vision for the nation still the vision of the people? In other words: does the dominant party continue to be seen as "highly effective" or "extra competent" by voters, and does its ideological positioning continue to coincide with that of the voters?

Graphically, this translates to asking:
Has the dominant party's utility curve shifted lower since the previous election, thereby losing its halo of effectiveness?
Has the dominant party's utility curve shifted far left or right since previous election, thereby losing a crucial percentage of voters?

Applying first principles to the development of the past 5 years, it's clear that any competent party that is not the PAP would run a campaign attacking
1. the PAP's competence, focusing on highly publicised policy and governance failures (say, transport breakdowns, healthcare failures, retirement fund failures)
2. the PAP's vision for Singapore. How many people in Singapore would say that 6.9 million (or according to Liu Thai Ker, 10 or 20 million!), easy visas and immigration for foreign job-seekers, a depressed wage and low productivity economy, etc are precisely the kind of Singapore they want?

Again, applying first principles it's clear that the PAP will not and has not run on its track record of the past 5 years. Because it's a track record of incompetence and radicalism. This isn't the PAP of Lee Kuan Yew, which was competent. This isn't the PAP of Goh Chok Tong, which was competent and still delivered a vision Singaporeans bought into, despite that great effective divide. This is Minilee's PAP, which is incompetent, out of touch, and wants a Singapore few Singaporeans want.

That's why the PAP will have to run on anything but its track record of the past 5 years. That means, for example, insisting that the elections is about town council management, and who can develop a better masterplan for the town council.

The mystery of GE2015, as was the mystery of GE2010, would be which parties aren't rationally contesting the election to maximise their challenge to the dominant party, and why not. And which parties are "rising" to the PAP's challenge of developing town council masterplans, knowing full well that from first principles, they can never outcompete a dominant party that has colonised the bureaucracy and achieved a halo of effectiveness and efficacy.

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