The Flipside

Three reasons why Dr Koh Poh Koon lost Punggol East

In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society. To be taken with a pinch of salt and parental permission is advised. In this post, he talks about why the PAP lost Punggol East SMC by-election.

The People's Action Party candidate at the Punggol East SMC by-election has suffered a shock defeat at the hands of the Workers' Party's Lee Li Lian.

Nobody thought that this would happen to Dr Koh Poh Koon, a colorectal surgeon with so many credentials and too much ministerial calibre.

Which is why -- as hindsight is always 20/20 -- it is easy to look back and point out these three reasons why Dr Koh Poh Koon lost.

1) Too corny

First and foremost, nobody appreciates corny political pick-up lines. What is this deal about Dr Koh being touted as the "Son of Punggol"? How does one even try to fuse biology with geography?

I used to stay in Ang Mo Kio. And now I stay in Sengkang. What does that make me? Geographically promiscuous?

Ok, yes, I know, I know, you stay in an HDB flat. I stay in one too. But that doesn't give me the licence to go round telling everybody about it.

I don't go to my next job interview and try to relate to my potential boss how we are so alike as our homes are basically overpriced spaces with four walls and two toilet bowls.

As a matter of fact, I definitely don't try to find common ground with anyone else that way.

How unsexy is that? Besides, what's the big deal about staying in a HDB flat anyways? More than 75 percent of Singaporeans reside in one.

2) Is he 'heartlander' enough?

Furthermore, residing in an HDB flat doesn't make one a heartlander. It is what one does that makes one a heartlander.

Look, a real heartlander is someone who knowingly cheats on his parking coupon by five to 10 minutes each time.

Or go to NTUC FairPrice supermarket to steal clear plastic bags.

Or order dishes at the chai png (economy rice) stall that contains both meat and vegetables for a better deal at 2-for-1 price.

Or get annoyed when able-bodied neighbours who stay on the second floor can walk up one flight of stairs to their doorstep but still insist on using the lifts.

If Dr Koh were to admit to any of these idiosyncracies, he might have just fared better. And found some real common ground.

What's more, his weird little story about how he was left with only enough money to buy chopsticks after buying a HDB flat just doesn't jive with reality.

3) He is overqualified

Last but not least, Dr Koh, to say the least, is overqualified for politics. And Punggol East residents recognise that.

What is a surgeon doing in a domain like politics? Politics is better suited for lawyers. And misfits.

If he really wants to do good, he should be in social services. Or consider being a philanthropist. Or volunteer at SPCA.

And he could just spend more time inside the operating theatre.

Moreover, if he has so many things on his plate, how is he going to be effective as a member of parliament? Have you seen that man's credentials?

Will he be there whenever parliament convenes?

Well, honestly, I don't think all of these reasons matter now.

What the PAP should recognise by now is: the electorate no longer wants superhumans who can save them from themselves.

They want someone they can relate to. Someone who is motherly, caring and soft.

Like Lee Li Lian. Unassuming, underdog and underwhelming.

And it will be a bonus if she really does stay in an HDB flat. Precisely because she doesn't brag about it.

Belmont Lay is the editor of New Nation. He is worried that Punggol East Town Council will not have any software management system after this by-election.

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