Dear All Singapore Stuff,
I might be flamed by fellow opposition supporters for saying this, but I feel it’s better if we opposition supporters voice out our concerns BEFORE the upcoming GE.
Firstly, not all opposition parties have the same status. The strongest opposition party at the moment is the WP which has 7 parliamentary seats and 2 non-constituency members of parliament. The WP is stable, has good leadership, party discipline, a strong brand name, strong grassroots network and has managed to attract a critical mass of skilled professionals. These factors explain why the WP has a better image and thus a better chance of winning than the other opposition parties. As was seen in the Punggol East by-election, in a multi-cornered fight, the WP candidate will attract a much larger share of votes than the minor opposition parties.
Next in the ranking of the opposition parties, is the SDP. Why? Because this is a party with a history, alternative policies and a clear ideology. SDP’s grassroots potential is underused but not lacking, as it seems to be able to attract social activists and other liberals. Say what you may about the SDP but at least it does not give the image that it is an unstable party that lacks people. The party website is well designed and is kept up to date. SDP’s decision to pull out of the Punggol by-election and avoid being a spoiler earned it goodwill from opposition supporters and thus the SDP’s image was not tarnished by a great defeat. The SDP may have committed some blunders such as implying that they were unwilling to run a town council, but they have corrected that mistake! They realized that they have to turn their attention to municipal matters too. And thus, earlier this year, they published a paper detailing their plans on running a town council. The SDP is not perfect, but if your constituency is not contested by WP, it’s your best bet if you want an opposition win.
Why did I not list the SPP which has 1 NCMP as the second pick for opposition supporters? Last GE, we saw a nationwide 6.5% vote swing AWAY from the PAP. Thus, every constituency that was also contested by the opposition in 2006 saw a larger percentage of the votes gained by the opposition in 2011. All constituencies save for one-Potong Pasir. SPP instead saw their votes in Potong Pasir drop by 6%, leading to their narrow loss of a safe seat to the PAP’s Sitoh Yi Pin!
This is largely due to the choice of SPP to field Lina Chiam who was intended to be Chiam See Tong’s successor. This is widely perceived to be the reason why SPP lost. Mrs Chiam was not eloquent enough at her rallies. Nor did she attack the PAP candidate sufficiently. Most importantly, she did not manage to convince the swing voters that she had a good chance of winning against the PAP candidate. That was why there were 242 spoiled votes. If just half these votes had gone to SPP, she would have won!
I’m not against SPP but I’m just saying that SPP has to deal with these REAL perceptions if they intend to field Mrs Chiam in Potong Pasir again. A party only stands a decent chance if it can generate hype among its supporters. Supporters and swing voters have to be convinced that the party can win. Remember, Sitoh Yi Pin has been the incumbent MP for Potong Pasir for 4 years now and he has a huge advantage over Mrs Chiam. It is no longer 50-50 as was the case in 2011. Even other opposition parties like the DPP are doubting Mrs Chiam’s ability to win again. That is why these opportunists want to cause a multi-cornered fight in Potong Pasir.
SPP can still win back Potong Pasir if they field someone younger, whose appeal to the voters is stronger. If they wish to revive Mr Chiam’s legacy while renewing SPP, then why not field Mr Chiam’s daughter? As Nicole Seah proved in the last GE, it is possible for a young, eloquent and inspiring female politician to generate sufficient hype to shift the vote towards her party, even against a strong incumbent from the ruling party.
SPP has been gifted with the entry of strong opposition personalities like Ravi Philemon and Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss, who is poised to give the PAP a tough fight at Mountbatten SMC once again. So why not build on that to renew the party’s overall image? I hope SPP can see the bigger picture and try to attract back swing voters.
All the other opposition parties are not main contenders. NSP received a lot of bad publicity after GE2011 because they went through a change of 5 secretary generals in such a short time and furthermore lost almost all their top candidates in the last GE to other political parties. Singfirst and PPP are new parties with no history and swing voters usually stick to established parties when they vote. RP and SDA have been discredited by their secretary generals losing their deposits in the Punggol by-election. These parties will be entering the upcoming GE with voters perceiving them to have a low chance of winning. They have a lot of hard work ahead of them. It will be an uphill
task for them to win a seat in parliament.