Opposition candidates can expect uphill battle in Sembawang and Nee Soon GRCs, which has strong grassroots support for the People’s Action Party.
By Terence Lee
Bikers gathered at a PAP Community Foundation branch outside Admiralty Secondary School. Photo: TERENCE LEE (Click photo to view gallery in Flickr)
AS expected, PAP supporters of all shapes and sizes arrived by the busload to a vicinity near Admiralty Secondary School, which is the nomination centre for Sembawang GRC and Nee Soon GRC.
Amidst the sea of white, a group of motorcycle riders stood out: Grown men (some really grown), decked out in sunglasses and leather jackets, chit-chatting besides their Harley-Davidsons and shiny choppers.
It was truly a sight to behold; a couple of angmohs who would look perfectly comfortable in the movie Wild Hogs, a bunch of young and old Malay dudes, and some Chinese riders who don’t quite measure up on the cool quotient.
Soon, their hero emerged out of nowhere and pro-PAP cheers erupted from this group of unlikely PAP supporters. The man at the centre of it all? None other than Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
It turns out that the Minister has been giving moral encouragement to Rider’s Aid, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts that actively participates in community events.
In return, the group decided to show up on Nomination Day to lend their support.
“I know they’re good people,” Mohd Salleh, a 60-year-old rider, says of the PAP team competing in the two GRCs: Sembawang and Nee Soon. “The government has been doing a good job so far. We should be grateful we have a good system. It’s not perfect, but they’ve done their best.”
Given their decades of presence among grassroots leaders, PAP supporters outnumbered opposition ones by about ten-to-one that day, and while we may chalk that up to logistical advantage, it’s much harder to rebut the genuine affection pouring out from the ruling party supporters.
But not all who wear white are fervent Lee & Lee fans.
“I’m ashamed to have the same surname as Tin Pei Ling, and you can put that down!” – Mr Tin
A friend I had bumped into was asked to support the PAP because one of the Ministers assisted in a community project she was doing. So she thought she’d see what the fuss was all about.
“Nah, politics is not really my thing,” she said, clad in white, “maybe this is the first and last time I’ll be involved this elections.”
I’m sure there are many like her, not passionate about politics, but generally pro-PAP and willing to carry the party symbol. And they’re likely to vote them into power too.
Then again, the opposition parties can expect modest gains this elections, since the PAP has not resorted to legal action so far to stymie opposition voices.
Disenfranchised voters, as well as Virgin Voters would form a significant voting bloc for both the SDP and WP, with bread-and-butter issues foremost on their minds.
I spoke to a 36-year-old unemployed man who came to the nomination centre dressed in jogging attire, wearing a blue singlet in support of the WP. He declined to give his full name, but says I can call him Mr Tin.
“I’m ashamed to have the same surname as Tin Pei Ling, and you can put that down!” he tells me.
Tin goes on to rattle off a list of concerns he has, which include: Rising costs of living, ERP gantries, expensive parking charges in the CBD, crowded trains.
“And you call this Swiss standard of living?”
Bryan Wong, a 19-year-old student from Temasek Polytechnic, may not be able to vote, but he’s a keen opposition supporter. His political awakening began two months ago, after doing research on his own and talking with friends. Affordable housing is a chief concern for him.
“If you have a $2,000 salary, it takes you three to four years to save enough money to pay for the ten percent downpayment,” he says, “that is too expensive.”
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