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Tuesday April 23rd 2019

Seven uncomfortable truth facing our opposition

Seven uncomfortable truth facing our opposition:-

1.  Too many opposition parties

For a country with only 2.3 million voters, we may have too many opposition parties operating in our congested political landscape.

Eleven parties currently crowd the tightly-held political space and many are small splinter parties usually formed by a single strongman aiming to win a prestigious seat in Parliament.

There is a urgent need for these small splinter parties to collaborate and form up to be one or two bigger parties but so far this seems hard to come by.

The much-anticipated collaboration effort by Dr Tan Cheng Bock to gather all these opposition parties so that it is seemed as more credible and cohesive has also gone up in smoke as so far there is no follow-up effort on this initiative.

With a small electorate, Singapore’s alternative politics has a better chance if its left to no more than five or six parties – some small parties may actually do the opposition alot of good by closing down or merging with the others.

2. Only show up during election

Some opposition parties, due to the lack of resources, only show up during election and it is tough for the electorate to truly swing their votes from the incumbent even though they are looking for an alternative voice.

It is no wonder many wards contested by the Workers’ Party garnered more votes generally than the rest of the other opposition parties. It is seen as credible and with six seats won so far, it is Singapore’s best opposition party to date – despite their unwillingness to collaborate with other opposition parties. Moreover, they are seen as actively campaigning all along even though the election is long over through their solid ground constituency work and strong presence in Parliament.

As the alternative needs to put in double the efforts of the incumbent to win votes, not doing much during the five years from the last election leading to the next one is political suicide.

However, with very little resources in terms of manpower and finances, small splinter parties have the work cut out for them and it is always a tall order to consistently carry out ground work among the constituencies they are contesting.

3. One-man party

Many smaller opposition parties are also seen as one strongman party giving the impression that there is not much support from the masses.

A strong political party has to be formed from a team and only looks credible if it’s presence is representative of several other viable voices within.

Of course, there is always that one visionary leader holding the fort but he must be supported by several others who are throwing their weight behind the party.

Initially, for a new party to flourish, there is usually always one loud voice coming out from the strongman but after a while he must be able to garner a few others who speak up loudly if not as loud as him.

4. Lack of unity

The biggest grouse of our opposition politics is the lack of unity among them – also a national disease we inherit from decades of self-centred mindlessness and egocentric meritocracy.

From the work places to families, we witnessed the horrible ill effects of self-centredness in many aspects of our society – the chomping of tissue paper on hawker centres to the unwillingness of passengers to give up their seats in our trains to other deserving ones.

its a natural option for the only opposition party Workers’ Party not to collaborate with the rest as truly there is nothing to gain and everything to lose. Moreover, the rest is still without a seat in Parliament and in all livelihood will want to use the opportunity to advance their own cause.

They don’t need to collaborate to venture on their own and frankly they have much more resources than all of the 10 other parties combined.

But, given this attitude, they will remain the party with only a co-driver seat and there is almost a non-existence chance that they can take over the government in the future.

When other parties come into play and win seats in the near future, they may find themselves on the sidelines and regret not wanting to collaborate to form any viable coalition before.

5. Lack of ground work/charity vehicle

Most of the smaller opposition parties have very little ground work  experience and also they lack a charity vehicle to spearhead their activities.

Perhaps only two other parties besides WP have a credible ground work programme which will last them till the next coming election.

Ground work allows a party to stay connected with the people and there is strong visibility during the duration of the activities carried out but it requires alot of efforts, time and volunteer manpower which not many parties have.

The lack of consistent viable ground work among many smaller parties have led to the criticism of them coming out only during the election period which further alienate them from the voters.

6. Criticism of one another

There is also the general feel that our opposition parties tend to criticise each other leading to the talk of disunity and fragmentation in the alternative camp.

This public spat will further reinforce the belief that the opposition camp is unreliable and thus undeserving of their vote. Moreover, as the political office is all about serving the people, voters can draw conclusion that such open public criticism of each other only fuel rumours that some opposition figures do so because of personal ulterior movies.

Opposition parties should keep criticism of others to themselves however valid the arguments may be.

A divided opposition is now the strongest bugbear of the alternative movement right now and unless this is properly rectified, we may see little hope of them mounting a stern challenge against the incumbent in the near future.

In politics, perception is everything and once a negative image is formed in the mind of the voter, it is difficult to erase it overnight.

7.  Musical chairs of candidates

Even though this is painful to write, some candidates played musical chairs during election and hop around parties in the hope of finding the right winning formula.

This happens to smaller parties as they have difficulty wooing the right candidates to their side and often they will desperately ask around for candidates to contest in their party – often during days leading to polling day.

This is a dangerous precedence which still happens regularly and it does not give voters much confidence seeing the last-ditch effort made by the alternative trying to provide the constituency with the right number of candidates especially in a GRC ward.

Granted that the GRC is there to make things difficult for the opposition but they have at least five years to settle for the candidates or at least try them out in some ground work activities in the hope groom them for candicacy.

When PAP designs the GRC system, it is meant to deter the opposition from contesting due to the sheer number of candidates required (up to six for some big GRC) and also the necessity of having a minority-race candidate within the group.

The GRC system and minority-race candicacy mean that some smaller parties will have immense difficulty attracting the right candidates to their team due to their size and influence which also means that they have to make do with lower-rung choices.

Many are thus quickly thrown into the fiery pit of campaigning days leading to the cast of crucial votes.

It is perhaps rightful for the opposition camp to go back to the years of Chiam See Tong who cleverly designed the system of voting for the opposition safely as the government has already been formed by not contesting in all the seats allocated.

Most Singaporeans though unhappy with the current regime still have no confidence in a alternative government other than the PAP due to its disunity and inexperience.

But the majority feels that there is the need to have a sizeable opposition in Parliament to provide a check and balance for the government.

The trick is who does the voters trust enough to provide this important mandate? So far, the Workers’ Party seems to¬† be the only party to have enjoy this esteemed privilege…

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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