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Tuesday September 3rd 2019

PSP-SDP coalition the best way forward?

As the general election is rumoured to be round the corner and many have clamoured for a loose coalition to be formed after the launch of Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s Progress Singapore Party, there are various opinions offered as to the format of this opposition alliance:-

1. Coalition with all opposition parties

Some have offered the possible coalition of PSP with all opposition parties so that the alliance can be seen as one huge body instead of the usual solo small party contesting individually on their own against the incumbent.

The coalition idea was mooted earlier this year by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) who brought together 7 other opposition parties with the hope of forming a loose coalition.

The desire to form a coalition is not new as in 2001, the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) was formed with four opposition parties headed by Mr Chiam See Tong.  The opposition alliance has since collapsed under disagreement and conflict.

However, the formation of one huge loose opposition alliance with all parties understandably will bring forth much inherent challenges such as character differences of individual party chief plus the added difficulty in trying to align all the parties’ agenda under one-umbrella uniform goal.

Even though the opposition may look united if all the parties are to contest under one huge coalition headed by PSP, it may be technically tough to bring all the parties to embrace a similiar goal and vision.

Thus, contesting the next election with the possible coalition of all opposition parties may not be plausible and even discouraged as eventually potential conflict and friction internally could eventually bring down the alliance before it could even start to contest it’s first election.

The past history of the failure of SDA should alert Dr Tan to it’s potential pitfalls and dangers.

2. No coalition and PSP contests alone

This no-coalition scenario increasingly looks a possibility as we never hear much of it from the party launch last week. It is as if the alliance formation is not on the cards anymore but knowing Dr Tan who is both politically shrewd and astute, one can only hope that he is keeping  everything under wraps.

But will PSP decide to contest alone and try to win some seats first before even venturing out to form potential alliance with other parties?

The fact that it is a new party without any seats yet gives people the feel that it is still pre-matured and untested. It will be a different matter if PSP has already won some Parliamentary seats after election and this will allow the party to form alliance with other smaller parties credibly.

However, the much-feared weapon of Dr Tan is his ability to create a opposition bloc of smaller parties and it will be a massive disappointment to many opposition supporters if PSP will to contest the next general election alone.

3. Coalition with WP alone

There are also much talk about PSP approaching WP to form a alliance alone which is the biggest opposition party now and also the only one with elected MPs in it’s fold.

This makes sense as the possibility of a alliance with WP will likely send shivers down PAP’s spine as you are looking at two big opposition giants joining forces.

But looking at WP’s past records, the chances of them wanting to team up with another opposition party looks remote and even the previous WP party chief Low Thian Kiang has spoken out verbally against any such coalition talk.

“All political parties have different directions and ideals, they won’t necessarily have the same views and approaches to policies. On the issue of what kind of opposition party is most beneficial for Singapore, the views are also divided. Therefore, given Singapore’s current political climate, to want all the opposition parties to form a unified force is an impossible goal.”

He explained that “the fear is that eventually, not only will they be unable to advance together, but they will splinter and become fragmented.”

“This kind of outcome will only make the people again lose faith in the opposition and become an impediment in Singapore’s democratic progress,” Mr Low said.

Thus, it seems certain that WP will reject any alliance discussion with PSP given the tough stance of the giant opposition on forming any collaboration with other opposition parties.

Moreover, it has done well on it’s own merit and is probably the only party that managed to lose many contested seats by less than 10% of total votes counted. Some seats were lost by less than five percentage of total votes counted.

It is thus the most supported opposition party in Singapore but it has somewhat lost steam of late perhaps due to the long-drawn town council court case and the recent change-over of leadership.

4. Coalition with a few other opposition parties notably SDP

Despite all the negativity surrounding the formation of a opposition alliance, there is still hope if PSP could seek out a few other parties for allegiance.

For example, SDP has being sincere in wanting to form a alliance with other parties all along and even hosted an event for seven opposition parties early this year. The possibility of a SDP-PSP alliance is both mouth-watering and positive and hopefully this can attract more people to join the opposition front.

Thus, it may be more feasible if the alliance settles for two or three parties first and not include all so that it is easier to operate  under one common umbrella though naturally this will anger those parties that are excluded.

SDP has grown into the second largest opposition party and has won over much support from many Singaporeans and it will be great news if they can team up with PSP first to build up an alliance and contest the forthcoming election together.

Smaller parties headed by one strong man will definitely want to join such a alliance as they know that they can’t make much head-way going it alone.

It is difficult to foresee how an alliance can flourish if it is an umbrella of 7 to 8 smaller parties each wanting to forge ahead riding on the rising tide of Dr Tan alone.

Fighting it all along by itself is also tough as PSP will then be seen as just another opposition party and at best it can function as a co-driver to the incumbent without the opportunity of ever  able to take over the government one day because of it’s size.

The possibility of a SDP-PSP alliance first looks feasible at least for this coming election and hopefully this alone will be enough to attract other parties to join in selectively later on.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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