IS IT FAIR FOR OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS TO CRITICIZE THE WORKERS PARTY?

If you’ve noticed, the WP is increasingly getting criticized not only by PAP supporters but also by those purportedly from the opposition camp on social media.

If we ponder deeply we would note three reasons for this. The first is WP’s success has become a threat not only to PAP’s dominance but also to the electoral fates of other political parties. The WP is now the undisputed top opposition party with the greatest chance of gaining more seats in the coming election. As it stands, the SDP, NSP, RP and SPP are already “shut out” from existing WP wards like Aljunied and Hougang. Singapore is not that big geographically. If WP takes more GRCs from the East of Singapore, the other opposition parties are only left with the Centre and West to contest in. Given the voters’ antipathy to multi-cornered fights, SDP, NSP and the others could not contest in WP wards without expecting a backlash from voters. The case of KJ and Desmond Lim during the by-election of 2013 demonstrates this.

Hence for the other opposition parties, the WP may represent an even greater threat than the PAP. The WP and other opposition parties are going after the same anti-PAP voters after all. This is reason number 1 why even some opposition supporters are turning against WP.

The second reason has to do with Low Thia Khiang. Since he took over from JBJ he has generally shied away from controversial topics. In effect, doing the opposite of what Chee and Kenneth are doing. This is tactical as he believes this to be the only way he could get the middle 30% of Singaporeans —those who sit on the fence— to take a chance with the WP. Under Low, the WP has become more centrist to attract voters that don’t particularly like PAP but hitherto had voted for them due to their preference for the status-quo. Past election results have proven Low’s tactic to be the right one. Understandably, taking a more measured approach to politics also upsets some die-hard opposition supporters who see that as a sell-out.

The fact is, little could be gained by adopting a confrontational stance like those typified by Roy Ngerng or Chee. It could only hurt the opposition cause electorally since most Singaporeans reject parties that are seen as ‘extremist’. Sure, SDP and RP make headlines every so often but neither of them have polled beyond 40%. To gain additional support it is necessary to appeal to centrist voters like Low has been doing.

Another oft-repeated criticism against the WP is that its MPs are not doing enough in Parliament. This arises because many voters are not familiar with how Parliament works. With only a handful of seats, WP MPs (plus Mrs Chiam, the SPP nominated MP) could neither set the topic of debate nor block PAP policies as they get voted upon. The reality we face in our democracy is that even if the PAP one day decides to turn Singapore into a Monarchy, they could do it since they have sufficient numbers to re-write the Constitution. The problem does not lie with WP MPs specifically, but with the unhappy situation they have found themselves in. There is just not enough opposition MPs to stop, much less overturn and reverse unpopular PAP policies currently.

Die-hard opposition voters need to be patient with the WP (and other opposition parties generally) even if they are not perfect in your eyes. Until such a time when the opposition could deny the PAP’s 2/3 majority in Parliament, they will be largely ineffective there. To make that happen, opposition voters must to stay united, continue to support all opposition parties in general, and demand party leaders not create three-cornered contests. Infighting of any kind will only benefit the PAP.

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