06 April 2006

What The Numbers Don't Say

Flashback: the US Presidential Elections 2004.

Contestants: George Bush (pro-Iraq war; anti-gay marriage) versus John Kerry (anti-Iraq war; pro-gay marriage).

Result: George Bush won.

In the aftermath, what happened?

(1) When Americans discussed the Iraq war, a line often heard was "The election results show that the majority of the people of America support the US invading Iraq."

(2) When Americans discussed gay issues, a line often heard was "The election results show that the majority of people of America are against gay marriages."

Back then, Mr Wang was pretty amazed to hear such arguments coming from people who apparently even seemed intelligent. The arguments, of course, are flawed and illogical.

For example, some voters would have been pro-Iraq war but also pro-gay marriage. Other voters would have been anti-Iraq war but also anti-gay marriage. Yet other voters would have felt very strongly (one way or the other) about the Iraqi war, but were ambivalent or undecided about gay marriage. Yet other voters would have felt very strongly (one way or the other) about gay marriage, but were ambivalent or undecided about the Iraqi war.

Yet in the end each voter in the above-mentioned categories only gets one vote, either for Bush or for Kerry. If a person votes for Bush, it doesn't necessarily mean that he supports the invasion - it may only mean that he is against gay marriage. If a person votes for Kerry, it doesn't necessarily mean that he is against the Iraq war - it may only mean that he is pro-gay marriage.

So it was certainly quite simplistic to conclude:

(1) "The election results show that the majority of the people of America support the US invading Iraq."; or

(2) "The election results show that the majority of people of America are against gay marriages."

Mr Wang brings this up now because of the interesting situation in Thailand. PM Thaksin faced a big protest in Bangkok, over the Shin Corporation matter. So he held elections. And he won the elections. And all around the world, winning elections traditionally means that you have the people's support, the mandate to govern.

And yet Thaksin has now stepped down.
Straits Times April 6, 2006
Thaksin steps aside, leaving his deputy in charge
By Nirmal Ghosh

BANGKOK - THAI Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra moved out of his government office, family photos in hand yesterday, leaving his trusted deputy Chidchai Vanasatidya in charge.

'These are pictures of my family that were on my desk. I'm taking them home. I want to rest now,' he told reporters, after chairing a Cabinet meeting at Government House.

'I will be around,' he added, indicating he may visit his hometown in Chiang Mai.

Mr Thaksin's spokesman, Dr Suraphong Suebwonglee, told The Straits Times: 'He will not be responsible for the job from now; he will be absent. If any laws or rules in the Constitution state that he has to come in for anything, to sign documents, he will do so. But if not he will not come here again.

'But he remains an MP, as well as Thai Rak Thai party leader,' Dr Suraphong added.

The move came as the Election Commission released an update on the results for the April 2 polls, showing that the Thai Rak Thai party won 55.8 per cent - or 16.2 million - of the popular vote. Turnout was 29.2 million out of an electorate of 45 million.

After claiming victory on Monday in the election, Mr Thaksin announced abruptly the next day, after an audience with the King, that he would not take up the premiership.

The decision followed weeks of street rallies demanding his ouster. It came after pressure groups, accusing him of abuse of power, cronyism and unethical business dealings, took him up on his offer to stop protesting if he quit.
This leads us to some interesting new grounds. The Thai situation is obviously somewhat anomalous. But what we can see is that the formal results of political elections (eg the number of seats a party holds in Parliament; the percentages of its election victories) don't necessarily lead to any obvious conclusions about how much trust the people have in a particular political leader or a particular political party or its approach to running the country.

Applying the above analysis to the Singapore context, what can Mr Wang say? Errrrr, too much of the politically incorrect sorts of things, probably. And Mr Wang has probably been treading on too much thin ice of late. So Mr Wang shall restrain himself and just give you a few brief questions to chew on:
1. If a Singaporean votes for the PAP, does it really mean that he thinks that the PAP is good? Or could it just be that he thinks that the PAP is bad, and the opposition even worse?

2. If the PAP succeeds in its goal in this coming election, and wins 84 seats out of 84 seats in Singapore, would it REALLY mean that the PAP now has more support from the people of Singapore than it's ever had since 1981?

4. If the PAP has so much support from Singaporeans, why is it that the PAP always has so much difficulty in recruiting capable, talented Singaporeans to join its ranks?
No answers from Mr Wang this time. Just questions. You think for yourself, okay?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

>> And all around the world, winning elections traditionally means that you have the people's support, the mandate to govern.

Democratic and fairly held elections.

Saddem Hussein had about 99+% of voters supporting him in the elections.

Anonymous said...

The PAP has spent alot of time the past couple of weeks attacking the opposition in the press, but besides that, what do all these PAP candidates propose to do to improve the life of ordinary singaporeans? I am not voting for them to attack the oppostion, what I want to know is what are they going to do for us, once they are in office?

Today Wong Kan Seng just came out and criticise the oppostion for doing little to improve lives of singaporeans. Even Chiam See Tong was criticised for only caring about the affairs of residents of Potong Pasir. Really? This coming shortly on the heels of SM Goh's threat to withold upgrading and other goodies to constituents who continue to vote opposition. Anyone see the irony here?

I have yet to see any PAP candidates come forward to address the issues of the day. So my question is-

1. What are the PAP candidates going to do about the rising costs of living?

2. What are the PAP candidates proposing to do about SM Goh's failed election promise of restoring the CPF cuts?

3. What are the PAP candidates plans to address the issue of risng income gap?

4. What are the PAP candidates views regarding the lack of transparency in both government and GLCs since it was the lack of transparency that created the debacle that was NKF?

5. What are the PAP candidates ideas regarding our ambiguous defamation laws since even TT Durai managed to win a couple of defamation lawsuits against people who were telling the truth. Obviously something should be done, right?

6. What are the PAP candidates proposing to do about of seriously overpriced HDB flats and what about the lack of transparency over so-called generous government subsidies. And what of the over supply?

7. What kind of reforms do the PAP candidates have in mind regrading the HDB because it is obviously one of the main branches of the civil service that is most in serious needs of reform and accountability.

At the end of the day, I am not interested in the opposition and what they have done or have not done. So can the PAP candidates please get down to business and tell me why they deserved my vote?

Anonymous said...

Saddam was more honest. At least he didn't bother with creating the veneer of fake debate or NMPs.

moomooman said...

Saddam was more honest. He just killed off any opposition.

Wait a minute, wouldn't one consider Saddam as an opposition since we tend to think "bad" guys are "opposition"?

lisiepeasie said...

Sigh. Its like how they declared Bush obtaining a "mandate" just because he won both the popular vote (barely) and the electoral votes. Or how they declared people to be "hawks" or "doves" depending on which side of the Vietnam War you were on. It's not that simple, people.

Cobalt Paladin said...

Er... what was question #3? Thanks.

Mr Wang Says So said...

A sharp eye you have, Cobalt. Mr Wang exercised self-censorship.

moomooman said...

1. What are the PAP candidates going to do about the rising costs of living?

They will show you statistics to tell you that even when your coffee cost 10 cents more (thus rising) at 80 cents, it is still among the cheapest in developed nations (though we are still technically a developing country).


2. What are the PAP candidates proposing to do about SM Goh's failed election promise of restoring the CPF cuts?

They will tell you that it's better not to restore CPF cuts and keep your job.

3. What are the PAP candidates plans to address the issue of risng income gap?

They already tried to lower the gap by couple of hundreds dollars with the Progress Package.

4. What are the PAP candidates views regarding the lack of transparency in both government and GLCs since it was the lack of transparency that created the debacle that was NKF?

The GLCs is alot more transparent than before. And they will tell you NKF is not exactly a government body.

5. What are the PAP candidates ideas regarding our ambiguous defamation laws since even TT Durai managed to win a couple of defamation lawsuits against people who were telling the truth. Obviously something should be done, right?

The only reason why he won, I think, is because the victims do not have a deeper pocket to fight for their beliefs. Perhaps our legal fees here are too high? Oopss...sorry to those in legal profession.


6. What are the PAP candidates proposing to do about of seriously overpriced HDB flats and what about the lack of transparency over so-called generous government subsidies. And what of the over supply?

a.) There are cheaper ones. Overprice is a relative word. You can get cheap flats at Jurong Extension. They will tell you that Hong Kong is alot more expensive.

b) Transparency is definitely non-existent.

c) It's better to be over-supply than under-supply. It's a double-edged sword. In my opinion, an over-supply keeps prices low and thus a bit more affordable. Anyway, the over-supply situation is improving.

7. What kind of reforms do the PAP candidates have in mind regrading the HDB because it is obviously one of the main branches of the civil service that is most in serious needs of reform and accountability.

They would tell you that they already had a reform that has seen a retrenchment excercise and cutting down the workforce in HDB.

amatu said...

Is it: Does the PAP really care for the people?

Anthony said...

I see a point about legal costs - I'm addressing specifically that. I apologise to Mr Wang for going slightly off topic though.

I agree to a limited extent about high legal costs. I'll be more specific - LITIGATION costs are high.

As much as I dislike contingency fees, I have to admit they serve one function admirably - they lower the intial cost outlay of going to court. I also happen to think that competition within the legal profession is a good thing, but law soc apparently doesn't think the same way.

There is also the relative lack of legal aid resources here. Having worked in legal aid as an intern I think I'm qualified to say this - at least for civil litigation cases, legal aid is woefully inadequate.

The entire structure does not deal with the provision of legal services to those who can -barely- afford legal services. You either have to show you can't afford it outright (via the rough proxy of the criteria set out in the Legal Aid act) or you simply have to grit your teeth and bear with it.

It also does not recognise, adequately I think, that legal services are both necessities and luxuries, depending on the level of service you are talking about.

Finally, the legal services structure in Singapore imposes a high transaction cost to bargaining. If anything, I believe the opposite is happening - it has become an instrumentality by which the "haves" are able to impose their will on the "have-nots". I'm not even speaking in solely political terms here - the problem is far more fundamental than this.

M. said...

"....the majority of the people of America support the US invading Iraq...(and) are against gay marriages."

---
Ah, the INTJ's pension for splitting atoms. Your contention is not absolutely accurate, as much of mid-America both war monger and gay bash. Some leeway for generalisation is, then, quite acceptable.

Regards,
INFJ

*Sic*

Anonymous said...

BBC News
Singapore attacked over blog gag

The Singapore government has been condemned for gagging political discussion on the web in the run up to the country's parliamentary elections.

The government has extended censorship laws to ban podcasts and videocasts that carry political content.

Websites and blogs are already under strict control and must be registered with the government.

Media watchdog Reporters without Borders said the ban would prevent democratic debate on the net.

The ban was outlined by Communications and Arts minister, Balaji Sadasivan of the People's Action Party (PAP) in a parliamentary speech.

It is enforced under a 2001 law that seeks to prevent overt advertising by political parties.

New technology

The ban will come as a blow to PAP opponents, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

It has used both podcasts and videocasts in an attempt to get round traditional media censorship laws in their campaign.

The party said on their website that the latest announcement was aimed "squarely at the SDP's efforts to harness the new technology to advance its platform in the upcoming general elections".

For its part, Reporters without Borders said: "Once again the Singapore authorities are showing their determination to prevent the holding of a genuinely democratic debate on the internet."

No date has yet been announced for the election.

Outside of election periods, bloggers and website managers have to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA) if they want to write about party politics.

However during elections even registered users are prohibited from open political discussion.

The government said that anyone breaking the ban faces legal action.

The announcement is an extension of the Singapore government's strict censorship policy that applies to all media.

Recently the government relaxed some of its laws in an attempt to market the country as a hub for arts and culture.

The film, Brokeback Mountain, passed film censors this year, in spite of the country's stringent laws against homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we have a political system in which the ruling party's MPs are given the choice to abstain from voting on bills that they are not fully supportive of.

We all know that unless the party whip is lifted, MPs have to vote according to the party's position, notwithstanding their private reservations about a proposed bill. By allowing them to abstain, this sends a signal that there are differing or 'dissenting' views within the party. And honestly what's wrong with that. Of course, an unpopular or 'bad' bill will still get passed by sheer force of majority. How the ruling party treats 'abstaining' members is a tricky issue though.

singaporean said...

Aiyoh, let's be machiavellian here: why have one MP working for you when you can have TWO? Heck, the two "shadow-MPs" in Potong Pasir and Hougang even have a "back channel" to the cabinet. Think about it: if your MP is a cabinet minister, his attention is inevitably divided. But if you stay in an Opposition Ward, if you have a Senior Minister with absolutely no portfolio serving your needs in the cabinet.

What incentive is there to vote PAP every election, even if the Opposition is a slipperman?

I say, alternate your vote every election to stretch your vote "dollar": A ward won over from the Opposition will be showered with extra tender loving care. Make PAP sweat every election and the Progress packages will never end!

It gets tricky if everybody think like this, but I seriously doubt that would happen. We can always count on the baby bombers to vote for one party only.

singaporean said...

oops...freudian slip... I meant baby _boomers_