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.