Saturday, April 23, 2011

The March of the Independents

There were no independent candidates in the 2006 General Elections. However, in the 2001 GE, there was Tan Kim Chuang who stood in Bt Timah, faced off SDA and PAP and got the lowest percentage of the votes (4.92%) of the three candidates in the SMC. Independent candidate Ooi Boon Ewe in Joo Chiat who stared down Chan Soo Sen in Joo Chiat SMC, fared better as he garnered 16.45% of the votes. In 1997, Chia Shi Teck was in a 4-corner fight with PAP-DPP-NSP in Chua Chu Kang SMC and obtained 14.06% of the votes. Not bad for an independent.

1991 - The Promise and Pitfalls in the Independents' Political Aspirations

The 1991 GE, the first post-LKY GE and the spring of political change, had a relatively thriving independent movement. Independents stood in Bt Merah (Patrick Leong who collected 1.63%) Bt Timah SMC (Sani Jan, who obtained 1.68%), Chua Chu Kang SMC (Harry Baptist and Kwek Guan Kwee who obtained 7.61% and 23.95% respectively), Leng Kee SMC (GK Niddy who snatched 23.43% of the votes from the PAP candidate), MOuntbatten SMC (Eugene Yap who scored 22.05% of the votes) and Tanglin (Gnaguru s/o Thamboo Mylvaganam who obtained 1.23% of the votes). The 1991 GE results for the independents in the 6 SMC showed that independents can fare either relatively well (more than 20% of the votes) or dismally (less than 2% of the votes). Why the disparity? Nobody can really tell but it has a lot to do with cleverly tapping on voters' frustrations with both incumbents and the alternatives.

Independents Have A Good Chance in 2011

Can independents actually win a seat in a SMC, since independents presumably do not have the resources to compete in a GRC? The easiest answer is probably a "no". However, the possibility of an election result where an independent can do well enough to keep his deposit, earn enough reputation and credibility for his future professional and political life is not out of reach.

Independents can be seen as very much similar to NMPs in many ways to the matured voter who is cynical of the tiresome rhetoric of all the political parties, and rather let an independent who has no political flag and baggage to wave and carry to enter parliament. Imagine if people like Siew Kum Hong stood as an independent, there is a high chance he can re-enter parliament as a full-fledged MP this time. Furthermore, the public should reflect on the myth that independents are lost causes or basket cases. For example, independents do not have the monopoly of crackpots. SDP, PAP, SPP etc incidentally all have their own crackpots.

In the 2011 GE, former presidential candidate Andrew Kuan is back and might do well in Joo Chiat. He has gained enough reputation since he made a grab for the elected presidency in 2005. Similarly, chairman of the Stansfield Education Group Kannappan Chettiar, might also score reasonably well in Mountbatten SMC.

However, those media-shy and mysterious loners who expressed some interest in being independents would probably fare terribly as they didn't even bother to market themselves credibly when it is so vital to do so now especially when every potential candidate is putting their cards and wares on the table already as there is so little time left to win voters over.

Catering to the Younger Voters and their Defiant DIY Streak

Although independents have not done well since the 1997 GE, the 1991 GE demonstrated that independents are players best not underestimated. Independents are not shackled by the party whip and are very non-partisan in theory. Assuming they can have a good social media penetration, independent candidates can reach out to the younger voters who are jaded of the various parties' branding and more receptive towards political gungho mavericks who answer to no secretary-general. The very same younger creative DIY voters who use Youtube to showcase their own films and music, blogs to coordinate spree shopping or market their writing. The same young voters who might prefer independent films, music, comics, labels etc. The public is also probably matured enough to understand that NMPs are "independents" already and electing people like Andrew Kuan and Kannappan Chettiar as an MP is a very favourable option to consider. Also, it is better to vote them instead of spoiling the vote on polling day.


Aloysius said...

Why the disparity? Nobody can really tell but it has a lot to do with cleverly tapping on voters' frustrations with both incumbents and the alternatives.

Your analysis of independent candidates does not include three-cornered or even four-cornered fights.

In straight fights between the PAP and an independent, electoral history shows independent candidates tended to keep their electoral deposits and scored around 20 percentage points.

However, in 3-way or 4-way fights, independents, with the exception of ex-NMP Chia Shi Teck, have always lost big i.e. lost their deposits.

As all seats are likely to be contested, independent candidates will step into 3-way fights, and while giving voters additional choices, I think they will still lose big.

Stansfield said...

I doubt KC neither has the intention and sincerity of running any grassroots actitivies in Mountbatten and even if he is elected (GOD forbid!!)which is very very unlikely, will look more like some kind of a sad joke

KC is a meglomaniac , very egoistic and self centred individual who insist of having their own way and no one else , the very reason why he is an independent is that KC answers to no one and thus, will be accountable to no one

For KC this is another kind of a ego trip, to gain publicity ... a cheap‘ 15 mins of fame ‘

This sad joke that is played will be expense of the ward should there be a split outcome

KC might put on a cloak of religiosity but beneath the facade lies a very power hungry and deluded nature


daikor said...


Actually, my observation included multi-cornered fights. I guess we will have to disagree on the survivability of independents and maybe you might be right that the electorate are not ready yet. Or maybe I could be right instead.

If the voters are jaded enough over the shallowness of the parties' campaigning and if the independent candidate has a robust personality-driven campaign, independents can stand a good chance. Independents who can woo the crowd with wit and showmanship rather than ideas and policies are more likely to fare better.

Andrew Kuan is someone to watch closely. The Stansfield guy perhaps as well. However, we can judge better their chances once they start their lobbying and speaking at rallies.

daikor said...


Looks like you have some serious personal baggage with Kannappan Chettiar.

For all we know, you could be from Mountbatten and from a party that is going to face off Kannappan Chettiar?