SDP trips itself up even before Punggol East starting gun

pic_201301_20You can almost hear the boos. The Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) proposal for “compromise” with the Workers’ Party over a joint candidate for the Punggol East by-election is so ridiculous, some may question whether they have a grasp of reality.

To quote the statement put up on SDP’s website (link):

In the spirit of compromise and cooperation, we would like to propose that our two parties run a joint campaign and field one candidate from the SDP. If victorious, the SDP candidate will enter Parliament and the WP will run the Punggol East Town Council.

– Press statement by SDP, 11 January 2013

Immediately, they got little else but online flak. Many characterised this idea as one where SDP will get the glory in parliament and WP do all the grunt work.

The Workers’ Party is not going to agree with it — and I see that Gerald Giam (WP) rebuffed it in a statement to the Straits Times a few hours later.

Did SDP think anyone would take it seriously? Or, as reporters asked, is this all posturing? Maybe they wanted people to see that they’re trying their utmost to seek opposition unity?

Nonetheless, it sends out a highly negative message:  That the SDP has no confidence in its ability to run town councils. Just saying “We’d very much like to . . . run town councils,” as party leader Chee Soon Juan did in a press conference 11 January 2013, isn’t going to counter this conclusion. If voters think that the party has either no interest or no capability to do so, then it’s as good as fatal to the party’s chances.

Of course it remains a good question why members of parliament should also be running town councils, and there are good arguments for separating the two roles. But for now, it is a moot question. That’s the way it is and no resident wants his local government to fall apart.

It’s a very bad mistake by the SDP and I think it will be paying a steep price for it.

* * * * *

I have said it before and I will say it again:  All this yearning for opposition unity is not in the best interest of Singapore. It caters only to the minority (25 percent at most?) of Singaporeans who want the People’s Action Party out at any cost. Most voters are interested primarily in issues and solutions and are quite agnostic about which party delivers them. So long as they get them.

Yet, ‘chuck out the PAP at any cost’ is a major motivator behind opposition parties. It is the steely, single-minded determination of those who subscribe to this view that keeps opposition parties going despite the innumerable obstacles. But alas, it can also mislead opposition parties into thinking that opposition unity is of paramount importance to the electorate.

The other argument in favour of opposition unity is a utilitarian one; the calculation being that three- or four-cornered fights split the ‘opposition vote’ allowing the PAP to win.

I’ve always wondered about the assumptions inherent in statements like that, assumptions that are probably fallacious: The first is that there is a homogenous ‘opposition vote’, and the second is the defeatist view that the PAP’s vote bank is always larger than any single opposition party’s support. There is the supposition that in a straight fight a supporter of Opposition Party A will always support Opposition Party B rather than the PAP.

None of these ideas have been tested; they do not even stand up to logical scrutiny. And if the 2011 presidential election shows anything, PAP’s core support base is not much more than 35 percent.

Yes, our electoral ground is terribly uneven. It’s been jigged and re-jigged to favour the incumbent party. Our first-past-the-post system plus a homogenous electorate (i.e. voter profiles in all constituencies don’t differ by much)  makes it brutal to small parties though there is another angle to it, which I will mention below. But that’s the lay of the land, and at least for now it’s an unavoidable reality.

* * * * *

Too many of this ‘anyone by the PAP’ lot are looking at Malaysia and asking why we cannot duplicate a broad alliance like Malaysia’s Pakatan Rakyat (PR) here. This especially with a new report that suggests a slightly better than even chance of PR winning the next election and forming the federal government:

Malaysian polls: Economist predicts narrow PR win

Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad’s chief economist has predicted that the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition alliance will eke out a narrow victory in Malaysia’s upcoming general election.

In a presentation at yesterday’s Regional Outlook Forum, Mr Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin considered three scenarios for the election that must be called by April 28: a narrow win for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), a narrow win for PR, and a larger victory for PR.

The study looked at factors like past voting patterns and demographic changes, such as the increase in young voters and urban voters.

Mr Azrul’s number crunching found that the scenario with the highest probability was for BN to win only between 97 and 107 of the 222 parliamentary seats. Such an outcome would mean a narrow win for PR, leaving it short of the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendments.

This scenario includes estimated ethnic vote shares for BN: For instance, 55 per cent to 60 per cent of the Malay vote, and 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the Chinese vote.

However, if PR does win the next general election, Mr Azrul predicts a “knee-jerk reaction” by financial markets, as well as a longer-term perception of political instability by business.

Economic sabotage – in the form of resistance to reform by business interests or civil servants sympathetic to the current BN government – is also a possibility, he added.

– Straits Times, 11 Jan 2013, Malaysian polls: Economist predicts narrow PR win, by Janice Heng

The day before, opinion research organisation Merdeka Centre reported that Malaysian prime minister Najib’s approval rating slipped from 65% in October 2012 to 63% in December 2012. Those ‘dissatisfied’ with his performance increased from 28% to 30% the same period.

Those ‘happy’ with the government slipped from 48% to 45% in the same period. However, those ‘unhappy’ also declined, from 41% to 38%. This suggests a very fluid mood among voters, making it very hard to predict results for the next Malaysian general election. For opposition optimists, it means that there is at least a good chance that PR will unseat the ruling Barisan Nasional.

If Malaysians can do it, why can’t we? Singaporean opposition supporters will ask.

* * * * * *

I think we forget that there are key differences between the Malaysian and Singaporean political landscape. Beside the fact that Malaysian constituencies have diverse voter profiles, each of the three component parties in PR is keenly aware of structural limits. Parti Se-Islam Malaysia can’t realistically grow much beyond its Malay-Muslim base. DAP can’t go far beyond its Chinese base. Parti Keadilan is squeezed between the two, appealing more to the moderate Malay and too reliant on a single leader. Precisely because they aren’t directly competing for the same voter, it makes tactical sense to make common cause.

There are no structural limits to any opposition party’s support in Singapore. None of them appeal along ethnic or religious lines. Not even along class lines.

Which is a good thing.

But it also means there is no compelling reason to co-operate. Instead, each opposition party has to sell its vision of the future to the people.

It may sound like a hard slog, but as respect for the People’s Action Party erodes, mathematical modeling of multi-party electoral fights will suggest that all it takes to secure a seat is to win just 30 – 40% of the voters in a ward. In other words, don’t see the first-past-the-post system only as threat, see it as opportunity too.

The hopeful thing has been that the SDP has indeed invested in generating alternative ideas, in healthcare, housing and other areas. They’ve made a good start and were beginning to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. But now, it seems, they are throwing it all away making that hare-brained ‘compromise’ proposal that makes people wonder again whether it’s a party only interested in declamatory politics (albeit in parliament) than in serving people on the constituency ground.

88 Responses to “SDP trips itself up even before Punggol East starting gun”


  1. 1 soba soap 12 January 2013 at 13:24

    Chee is sabotaging the credibility of his own party trying to make WP look bad and proposing such a ridiculous idea. Maybe he should ask PAP whether they would be interested in such a win win situation. If the results of 2011 GE is a barometer to go by, WP would be able to secure more votes than SDP can ever achieve, even if they field Lee Li Lian.

  2. 2 alvin 12 January 2013 at 14:02

    What boggles my mind is how the other seemingly sensible-minded members of SDP could have possibly thought this was good move.

  3. 3 yuen 12 January 2013 at 14:32

    not much use talking vague generalities; the point is whether you agree with SDP’s desire to send in a candidate, or not; PAP likes the idea, WP does not; which side are you on?

    I dont think SDP is being as dumb as you describe it; it wants to send in a candidate, but wants to look like favoring opposition solidarity too; SDP MP combined with WP town council is just its method to square the circle

    • 4 yawningbread 12 January 2013 at 14:41

      Would SDP accept a solution by which it’s a WP candidate for parliament and SDP runs the town council?

      • 5 yuen 12 January 2013 at 15:00

        I would say “obviously not”; it wants to be represented in parliament, and thinks a by-election is too good a chance to pass by

      • 6 Yeoh Lian Chuan 12 January 2013 at 15:03

        What the SDP proposed doesn’t even work technically.

        Firstly, an MP is ex-officio a member of the Town Council.

        Secondly, only the MP can write on behalf of residents.

        So what the SDP was offering was in fact for the WP to be a “managing agent” for it, as one of the potential SDP candidates has described the offer.

        Anyone thinks the WP will settle for the position of managing agent of an SDP town?

      • 7 Jeremy Chen 12 January 2013 at 17:29

        Alex, would you prefer an outcome where a WP candidate goes to parliament and the SDP manages the Town Council? Which is better?

        In any event, a Town Council is a powerful thing to control. The SDP proposal, while hackish, is the better a win-win division, and certainly better than a multi-cornered fight.

      • 8 jimmy 13 January 2013 at 16:36

        Moot. WP is not SDP and SDP is not WP. One who sells a certain item may not want to buy back the same item from you or from some other vendors offering the same item. He just needs to convince the other people to see & buy whatever value proposition that he may be offering.

        SDP may be testing water and hoping for a hit and their approach is too ahead of our political straight-jacket & mundane convention.

      • 9 ddd 13 January 2013 at 18:05

        WP seems to be working at a tactical level, while SDP seems to be more strategic. Look at which party has come up with proposal on health, defence etc.

  4. 10 Yeoh Lian Chuan 12 January 2013 at 15:00

    The Presidential Election is probably not a good example.

    For one thing, the EP is meant, fundamentally, to serve as a 2nd key to check on the Government.

    So it is in fact un-natural for the person most closely associated with the PAP (President Tony Tan) to be the favourite.

    Second, the main ‘centrist’ voice, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, was an ex-PAP man who served as an MP for many years, not someone with an opposition background, albeit a maverick of sorts during his Parliamentary career.

    Thirdly, most of the anti-PAP votes had a clear choice – Tan Jee Say. Mr Tan Kin Lian was really only a peripheral candidate.

    I therefore think that in a three cornered fight, the likelihood is greater dilution amongst the opposition vote. Either that or the opposition shuns the party less likely to win.

  5. 11 Rogueeconomist 12 January 2013 at 15:05

    I am broadly sympathetic to the need for multiple political voices in Singapore and I think the SDP does deserve credit for attempting to provide seriously considered alternative policies. But this terrible track record of poor political choices by the SDP leads me to suspect that the leadership are just terribly out of touch with ordinary Singaporeans and political reality. I suspect there are two main causes of this.

    First, the fact that the SDP’s leadership has been a lot more successful outside of Singapore than within it – e.g. CSJ’s recent invitation to Yale to speak, and his numerous invitations internationally. It is clear that he is held in high regard by international observers, because he speaks well (in English) and he has been, one might say, persecuted by the powers that be. But I suspect this has all gone to his head in some way. He doesn’t seem to realize that he and his party are not held in regard by local voters anywhere near the same degree as by international observers. We can debate the reasons for that (bad press, bad political choices) but ultimately politicians need votes, not international attention.

    Second is, I think, the long history of political misfortunes CSJ has suffered at the hands of the powers that be. I have seen old political victims of the powers that be (PTB) speak at international events, such as Francis Seow. It is remarkable how persecution can change a person. Persecuted individuals often seem stuck in a world where their main goal is to score political points against the PTB, at any cost. This isn’t productive. Witness Dr. Wijeysingha’s recent diatribe on the labor problem in Singapore where several excellent points were unfortunately overshadowed by political insinuations that backfired in threats of lawsuits.

    Anyway, these are their political choices to make and I respect all politicians in Singapore (of all stripes) for having the guts to stand up and do something for us. But this tragicomedy isn’t going to improve political maturity in Singapore a whole lot.

  6. 13 locke 12 January 2013 at 15:07

    Dear Alex,

    “There are no structural limits to any opposition party’s support in Singapore. None of them appeal along ethnic or religious lines. Not even along class lines. ”

    A close examination of the GE and PE results reveal both a class and ideological split. Why would a class divide be so surprising ? Its reflected in FPTP electoral politics in the US and the UK, Its reflected in the history of the PAP as a liberal English educated party forming an alliance with the Chinese working middle class.

    You have previously acknowledge that the district polling within Holland shows a lack of support for the SDP within heartland blocks and stronger support within the private estates. Is this not a reflection of some form of class divide or an appeal of personalities and ideologies to certain classes ?

    The natural PAP base in a GE is 60% the 35% won by a PAP supported candidate was due to the appearance of a PAP lite candidate and an Opposition SDP supported candidate at 24%. Somewhere in between 60 and 35% lies PAP supporting voters who can be and are willing to be wooed. The centrist block in an FPTP system will have to be won, the WP won because it appealed enough to them, the SDP has to win enough of that centrist block in order to get to 50.1. Both parties need the core voters which support either party and I hope this 3CF drills this fact into all their heads.

    Locke

    • 14 yawningbread 12 January 2013 at 15:24

      Re your point about class divide, yes there is a difference in support from one socio-economic stratum to another. However, my point is that none of the opposition parties aim through their rhetoric to appeal to certain classes only.

      • 15 locke 12 January 2013 at 16:53

        Dear Yawning,

        I think broadly speaking all parties try to appeal to as wide an electorate as possible, Whether one calls it , right left, Centre Right , Centre left. But is it wide enough and is their rhetoric , messaging, campaigning enough ? The parties can aim all they want but when the ballots are counted , the results tell of whether the aiming is on the bull eye or not.

        The opposition vote is not homogenous. the reasons for the Anti PAP vote can be historical which no amount of PAP RCs can overcome. The PAP’s core support base is probably 40% or higher and that is with control of the grassroots, unions and media. The PE was an outlier and only because TCB was seen as PAP lite somewhat the same accusation thrown by many of its detractors. I believe you are wrong in that assumption and I would like to wager a decent dinner with you on that issue based on the numbers at PE

        The SDP depends on a unified opposition vote for a good showing, just as much as the next WP candidate. The debate about how much SDP leaning is that 40% or WP leaning is that 40% is for the academics and professional pontificators. The practical results is that 40% is not enough in any FPTP system, It would be enough in any PR system, but that s not what we live and vote under.

        Locke

  7. 16 October Leung 12 January 2013 at 15:35

    Alex, your view, about providing voters with a choice by having more parties contest, is good in theory. But as you also mentioned, this system is first-past-the-post. This may lead to a situation where a party with nearly half of all votes wins zero seats.

    Combined with the dominant party’s grip on information and the traditional media, and with institutional and structural impediments against the opposition, the dominant party may continue with a large majority in Parliament for a very long time.

    I would like to see the dominant party’s virtual-stranglehold on power being reduced substantially first. The 2011 general election saw almost all constituencies contested, with almost no multi-cornered fights. That was an excellent tactic.

    I would therefore rather have the electorate have little choice and vote the dominant party out as quickly as possible, or at least shock them enough to have them reverse certain policies, than to have the dominant party continue destroying the country with the policies it has put in place.

    Given a choice between the Workers’ Party and the SDP, I would have voted for the latter. However, given a multi-cornered fight, I would vote for the party able to unseat the dominant party, because my immediate priority is to stop the damage being done by the dominant party to my country, not about having a more liberal voice in Parliament.

    On a related note: I’d given the SDP much credence recently, especially in the 2011 election where its some of its candidates were quite good, and had personal stories about their cause. The SDP also wrote alternative policies, which demonstrates that they can, if need be when they do mature and re-enter Parliament, form a shadow cabinet able to tackle issues of policy. This is vital now when so many of the policies are failing and damaging the country.

    Unfortunately, this bizarre move by their leader has tainted the good that the party and its members had done in the recent past. Now, if I were to vote for the SDP, it would only be to send a dissenting voice into Parliament against Goliaths, because it has shown that it is not afraid to be a dissenting voice. However I would not trust them, as a party, to show strategic judgment, or even sound judgment generally.

  8. 17 Mike 12 January 2013 at 15:39

    I respect the SDP to a much greater degree than the rest of the opposition parties. From housing (housing a nation), support of free speech, genuine democratic ideals, and healthcare, they’ve proven they have a better vision and better ideas for Singapore. I don’t think this proposal for Punggol was a good idea. But political parties’ ideas demonstrate their directions (meritocracy, MNC’s as the bedrock of singapore, don’t tax the rich, stop at 2, for example?) I’d support them being in parliament sooner rather than later.

  9. 18 Yamasam 12 January 2013 at 16:02

    The proposal by the SDP may come back to haunt them in the next GE. Their abilities to run a town council may be questioned. Doubts will be cast in the minds of voters.

    In their eagerness to contest in this BE, the SDP may have shot themselves in the foot by making and publicising such a proposal, and the damage will be felt further down the road.

  10. 19 tichy 12 January 2013 at 16:36

    WP said they wanted a first world parliament, meaning paliament does not contain one party, not even 2 parties, but a variety. Thats how ideas can be generated through different point of views. Furthermore, I do not see WP providing any real alternative policies and new ideas like SDP, and theres no point simply to tweak current policies. WP will be seen as altrustic and gain the higher moral ground if they agree and campaign together with SDP. Running the town councils would seem like doing the shit work. But they can use it as a platform to campaign in Pasir Ris GRC in the future. Honestly, I do not see SDA who campaigned in 2011, winning the next GE, in fact they should just disppear or merge to other parties for the sake of Singaporeans. This could be a turning point on whether there is true opposition unity or if it is to each its own.

  11. 20 Chew 12 January 2013 at 16:43

    What if the SDP candidate is Dr Chee himself?

    How do you think WP’s candidate (either GG, YJJ or LL) will fare when stacked against Dr Chee & Dr Koh?

    What is so outrageous about letting someone else run the town council as suggested by SDP? How is that worse off than say, PAP letting its own party employees run the Town councils like its own political arm? Wasn’t the whole fiasco and anger in the AIMgate about how Town councils should be a neutral, an independent and separately run entity, but supervised by the said elected MP? So if SDP wants to “outsource” its TC to WP (which incidentally has accumulated enough good experience on the ground), what is all that big fuss then? Isn’t all that rather strategic, and might I say, the “right” thing to do? It only shows how much clarity they have in this approach. Who gets paid what is a minor and separate matter all together if you look at the scheme of things.

    • 21 locke 12 January 2013 at 17:00

      Dear Chew,

      Simply put, the elected Representative is the Town Council Chairman and he appoints everyone else. Firstly let me declare my interest as a WP supporter and member, Secondly I would add that personally I have no issue with a multi cornered fight as it will teach everyone soon enough the need to coorperate and not split a well ok non homogenous opposition vote. Finally, if the SDP wants to compete then so be it but there is really no need to have a taiwan style soap opera on the whole issue. Just turn ,up campaign and count the votes on Jan 26 and no need to insult another opposition party in the process.

      What it means is the SDP has the elected MP, the chairmanship, the power of authority . legally, morally and yes the Workers Party can work for us.

      Locke

    • 22 Yamasam 12 January 2013 at 17:32

      Dr Chee cannot run in this BE as he does not qualify under Article 45 of the Constitution. He has a wait-out period of 5 years from his last conviction for an offense in court in which he was fine more than $2K. Probably those cases relating to illegal assemblies.

      Dr Chee had also mentioned that he is not eligible before until 2016.

    • 24 Paul Peters 12 January 2013 at 17:34

      If you ever think Chee/SDP has a chance, look no further than GE2011.

      Anyway people who know Chee as a perosn knows his mind-set. He should do justice and not disgrace his family and children.

      • 25 Kris 12 January 2013 at 23:33

        What do u know about DR Chee or his family? Get your facts right before you comment and tarnish his reputation.

      • 26 Ride All Way 13 January 2013 at 01:56

        Yah Paul, what do you know about Dr Chee family and children for you to say something like that?

        Back to the SDP proposal. I hate to say this but I think it is time for Dr Chee to step down. That would do some good for SDP. No one should be bigger than the party. And I think only that will bring some credibility back to SDP.

      • 27 qwertot 13 January 2013 at 06:33

        This seems to be a kind of argument that seems fairly common to Singapore, and maybe other asian countries. Try to guilt or shame someone into doing or not doing something by saying he should consider the disrepute his actions would bring to his family and children ( “won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?”).

        It’s really nothing more than another form of emotional blackmail.

        Of course, people like Paul Peters conveniently fail to mention what exactly the mind set is, why it hints at injustice, and why it would even bring about disgrace. Not that justice and disgrace have universally accepted norms, in the first place.

  12. 28 Anon Lg42 12 January 2013 at 16:57

    This discussion on SDP is what is needed to keep the public’s minds off the Michael Palmer scandal.

    I suspect the state-controlled media will make this the main issue of the by-election if SDP doesn’t pull out.

    I hope the online media can re-focus on the Michael Palmer affair as there are still questions left unanswered.

  13. 29 Raymond 12 January 2013 at 17:25

    SDP should first prove itself by winning a seat. So what if a few of its party members are PhD holders?

    Chee has been and still is deluding himself thinking he’s the best person to be the alternative voice.

    • 30 Robox 13 January 2013 at 05:52

      First reveal this. Are you for or against SDP entering the fray in Punggol East?

      For if you are not, like most people, how should SDP win a seat, if not by contesting for one?

      And please don’t reply with stupidisms like”if they concentarted on their traditional areas – as if there was even such a thing – they can contest there unhindered at the next GE.

      There are plenty of problems with that reasoning, if you adopt it.

      • 31 octopi 13 January 2013 at 21:19

        Let’s put it this way.

        If SDP does not contest in the PE BE, it will win 0 seats.
        If SDP contests in the PE BE, it will win 0 seats.

        So what’s the difference?

  14. 32 Paul Peters 12 January 2013 at 17:32

    I am sure PE residents like many other Singaporeans who have to vote wont want an Opposition candidate who gets into parliament and starts gettting himself into a big mess of being sued and disqualified as an MP.

    Now you guess which Opposition candidate is lilkely to be like that? In the past JBJ shot himself if you sit down and think very hard about it. JBJ also never got his facts correct when he took on the GOvt on behalf of his constituents.

    Question: Is it worth to have such MP representing you when in the first place he doesn’t do his job as an MP. Of course not unless you are one of those die-hard SDP believers or someone who believes in being mancho.

    • 33 Robox 13 January 2013 at 05:53

      How much of a job as opposition MPs have the WP MPs been doing?

      They have been voting with the PAP, after announcing dying to form a coalition with them.

      • 34 CRICKET 13 January 2013 at 21:08

        The WP has more in common with the PAP than with any other opposition party. I remember back in 2006 a WP candidate (I can’t remember his name or the constituency he stood in) disclosed that he voted for the PAP instead of the opposition party in Ang Mo Kio GRC where he lived.
        He was neither sacked nor disciplined by his party. So don’t expect the WP to embrace “opposition unity”.

    • 35 CRICKET 13 January 2013 at 18:05

      My question is: Is it worth to have a meek MP who is afraid of being persecuted and decide to be a “loyal” opposition? A MP should advance the interest of the people in parliament and not try to avoid persecution.
      If the opposition is persecuted who is at fault – the persecutor or the persecuted?
      As for the SDP’s proposal to the WP, I think it is simply dumb and may even be perceived as opportunistic. Its credibility will no doubt be adversely affected.
      If the SDP thinks it has good alternative policies for the country and a good candidate it should just submit its candidate for the electorate to choose. It can be deduced from results of last GE and the PE that the PAP’s core support is less than 40%. So it is possible for the PAP to loose in the 3-cornered contest.

  15. 36 Anon H7cx 12 January 2013 at 17:39

    Be patient CSJ. You are still young. Don’t screw yourself with hot-headed actions like this.

  16. 37 Thor 12 January 2013 at 18:01

    Personally I am not so disheartened. I feel SDP is creatively exploring different possibilities in which the opposition can work together. Some ideas may work, some may catch fire, some may fail. For me, I feel another party in parliament, especially SDP with clearly defined platform can only be good for Singapore. I cannot but wonder why punggol east residents would want another $16 000 rubber stamp in parliament.

  17. 38 visitor13 12 January 2013 at 18:14

    Alex, one of the bedrocks of BN’s success to win elections is that it has always know how to strike a balance between the fundamentalist stand of PAS and the staunchly secular stand of DAP and please both sides while allowing contradictions to thrive. Unfortunately, BN is not playing the game of moderation now and you can see they are leaning towards far-right wing populism. That is why Anwar Ibrahim poses as a formidable opponent to BN because he knows how to win support from secular liberals and conservative Muslims at the same time.

  18. 39 kassim 12 January 2013 at 18:57

    There Is No unity with any Opposition and there will never be one.If SDP wants to win voters it should focus on it’s offerings and target wards they are targetting.That is what WP is doing as they leanrt that long ago as outsering PAP is not the same as winning over the target Singaporean voters of the ward. Win them and you achieve your other goal.I rest my case.

  19. 40 Anon ppF3 12 January 2013 at 19:55

    I think a direct vote for a non-WP opposition party could also send a distinctive msg – an implicit vote for PAP but not giving them a direct absolute mandate. This offers a ’3rd’ choice for voters who want to keep PAP candidate but not wanting to give the party a clear vote.

  20. 41 Kris 12 January 2013 at 23:23

    It’s a excellent idea. DR Chee is ahead of the pack. It’s collation, it’s been practice by many countries.

    • 42 Ride All Way 13 January 2013 at 01:59

      But the time is not right. You cannot just come out with such idea and expect Singaporeans to accept it.

    • 43 Bill 13 January 2013 at 03:46

      No. It’s a stupid childish fantasy of take and take which would leave the residents of PE stranded without a working MP. Tell me which countries have political parties that practice such an unworkable form of ‘collation’, please do tell.

  21. 44 skponggol 13 January 2013 at 00:53

    “If Malaysians can do it, why can’t we?” Singaporean opposition supporters will ask.

    Malaysia Opposition can do it because the various parties within PR have agreement not to engage in any 3-cornered fight while campaigning for each other in elections. They have mutual respect and trust with each other even though both DAP and PAS are diametrically opposed to each other ideologically.

    But this is not so in Singapore.

    In GE2011, the Workers’ Party had shown a very clear intention not to negotiate or cooperate with other Opposition parties. They had entered into Punggol East which was previously contested by SDA as well as Moulmein-Kallang which had been ‘choped’ by NSP as they had also previously contested that ward under SDA the banner when they were part of the alliance. Then, WP had rebuffed and ignored any attempt to negotiate with other parties just as they were ignoring other parties in Punggol East now.

    During GE2006, SDP had given way to WP when they just barged into Nee Soon Central. SDP won that ward in 1991 and contested again in 1997 and 2001. But now look at how WP reciprocates SDP?

    How can any party ever dare to trust and cooperate with WP, as unlike those in Malaysia? PAP gerrymandering of constituencies at will has already severely hampered non-WP Opposition parties’ effort to build up their base at the ground. WP’s headstrong attempt to invade any constituencies with total disregard and disrespect to other parties further damaged and destroyed all their hard labour.

    Singapore Opposition cannot emulate that of Malaysian because one party is hell-bent on annexing other party’s groundwork and threaten their very survival.

    • 45 octopi 13 January 2013 at 18:56

      They are two different parties in the same alliance, aren’t they?

      Let me give you an analogy. Two parties who are in an alliance are like a married couple. When they split up the chores, one doing the politics and the other doing the grassroots, it is like fucking.

      When a couple is married, they can fuck each other as much as they like.

      What Chee Soon Juan is doing is he is going up to another person who is merely an acquaintance. then he writes an email, saying “let’s get married”. Then he takes that “let’s get married” email and puts it up on his party’s website when understandably he doesn’t get a response.

      Then after he doesn’t get a response, he calls in a press conference and announces to the whole wide world, “well she’s not going to marry me but I think we should have sex anyway.”

  22. 46 Norm 13 January 2013 at 01:09

    The WP won 41% in a 3-cornered fight in Punggol East in 2011 with their B team candidate. The SDP won 39.9% in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in a 2-way fight fielding their A team candidates.

    There is zero chance of SDP winning this by-election.

  23. 47 patriot 13 January 2013 at 01:11

    ” … Nonetheless, it sends out a highly negative message: That the SDP has no confidence in its ability to run town councils.”

    It is simplistic to think that SDP, by offering such a proposal, may have no confidence to run town councils. If we watch this interview video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UXAEn5E_3MU

    or read SDP’s statement on their website, it is clear to any reasonable person that first and foremost, SDP is seemingly trying to initiate a conversation with WP and their proposal is part of and subsequent to this process.

    Besides, running a town council ain’t exactly rocket science.

    Why I take particular issue with your statement and your concluding paragraph is because your influential blog is read by thousands out there and it may just influence the opinions of the weak/lazy/ minds out there into dismissing the chances or abilities of a party which, in my opinion, has the most credible and detailed alternative policies and would be more effective in generating real debate in parliament and creating public awareness than what we have in the parliament currently.

    patriot

  24. 48 skponggol 13 January 2013 at 01:20

    ‘Chuck out the PAP at any cost’…..but Opposition Unity at any cost?

    In this Punggol East By-Election, will the Liberal Opposition supporters vote for SDP, which has been championing their causes outside the parliament and will most certainly fight for their right if elected into parliament? Or, are they going to vote for the more conservative WP who has never bothered to speak up for them both inside and outside the parliament?

    Has the WP ever speak up on gay right, women right, minority right, underprivileged and other progressive issues?

    If liberal Opposition supporters were to put aside their ideological differences with WP and decide to vote for them while rejecting SDP in Punggol East in the spirit of “chucking out PAP”, will WP reciprocate and fight for them in parliament risking the ire of their more conservative supporters base?

    If SDP were to gain lesser votes than WP, what will happen to SDP? Will they be able to attract any more credible liberal candidates to join their ranks? Or rather, would any liberal-minded candidates ever bother to step forward and participate in Singapore politics knowing the futility of their effort? And which party is ever going to speak up on progressive causes effectively without any forceful and charismatic spokesperson?

    If Singapore is to be dominated by a conservative ruling party and a conservative opposition party, who is ever going to represent the liberal Opposition supporters? Will they be marginalised from mainstream politics?

    If SDP were to be involved in a 3-cornered fight with WP in Punggol East, this may be the Last Stand for liberal-minded Opposition supporters.

  25. 49 Robox 13 January 2013 at 02:26

    I am going to rubbish your entire article, Alex, but not because I disagree with any of the observations or analyses you have made.

    In my opinion, this proposal by the SDP did not have even a ghost of a chance of taking off. There is one – and only one reason for it – It was made by the SDP.

    We can be sure of one thing: Had this proposal been made by the WP (and even PAP, though the context is inapplicable for that party), we can be sure that nearly all Singaporeans (“primitive people”, hereafter) would be praising the WP sky high for it.

    It reveals the Chinese political culture still evident today long after the abolishment of the monarchy in China. In Imperial China, which is still being lived in Singapore today, subjects deify their emperor because he has the mandate from (Chinese) Heaven; the Emperor is the Son of Heaven after all.

    Making adjustments for the modified political structure in Singapore today, you could say that these primitive people in our midst regard the number of “seats” a party has in Parliament – and therefore how much power and prestige that is given to you – as evidence that you have the mandate of Heaven. Not for these primitives is a multifactorial analysis of other factors that impact on the number of seats a party has or is denied to it.

    The corrollary of deification is the demonization of those who don’t have the mandate of Heaven – those without seats, and therfore power and prestige; their cruel, merciless and endless vilification is therfore justified.

    That’s why the WP would have been praised, but the SDP is being roundly condemned by these primitive people who might as well go back to living in the stone age.

    Until we actually address this facet of political culture in Singapore, a facet that is antithetical to democracy, absolutely nothing is going to work for those parties that do have the mandate of the Chinese Heaven because they don’t have seats in Parliament. Hence, my rubbishing of your otherwise faultless – if superficial – analysis.

    What was presented by the SDP as a win-win-win proposal was doomed to fail in an environment that is already primed to ensure that those who don’t have the mandate of Chinese Heaven aren’t even entitled to their right to free speech on any matter.

    For the SDP, they might do well to be cognizant of all of this; it is pointless to only know the needs and aspirations of the electorate, and the solutions for them, it is absolutely crucial to know the political culture of the what I am condemning as a dysfunctional electorate so as to better strategize around it.

    But there is no doubt in my mind that it is the primitives in Singapore who have been or who continue to be impacted by a culture so antagonistic to democracy who are the ones who should feel downright ashamed of themselves.

    Almost no Singaporean is exempt.

    • 50 octopi 13 January 2013 at 11:55

      What you have described is not the mandate of heaven system, it’s called the westminister system.

      One reason why WP has a higher standing than the SDP is because they don’t propose daft ideas like the one Chee Soon Juan proposed. Another reason is that their grassroots movement is much more advanced than SDP. Even NSP’s grassroots is better than SDP.

      • 51 qwertot 13 January 2013 at 15:53

        I’m going to agree with Robox that when people say they want ‘opposition unity’, what they really want is for all other parties to basically kowtow to the WP. Ask any of them that in the event all opposition parties really do form a coalition, who would they want to be the leader? From what I gather, the answer would invariably be the WP, even if they don’t want to admit it.

        The idea that a party like SDP should lead this coalition is heresy to them. The real goal is for WP to achieve dominance, and things like opposition unity is really just a smokescreen. When WP created a 3 way fight in the past GE, there were no such calls for WP to heed opposition unity.

        It is true that WP doesn’t produce ‘daft’ ideas like the SDP. It is also true that WP simply doesn’t produce any ideas at all. WP has often chosen to remain passive and silent in many past situations. Of course when another party does something unpopular, WP is going to look good by comparison.

        But in turn, WP hasn’t done anything close to the SDP’s proposals on healthcare and housing. And when those policy papers did come out, the same old people like Raymond above will say, get a seat in parliament before you dare to open your mouth. There is really no way for the SDP to win in the minds of these people who have elevated the WP to sainthood. Miraculously, WP gets to escape any flak even when it has done nothing, and mind you, WP is being paid to do this while the SDP is not.

        And with the massive mob mentality of the WP supporters’ on SDP’s facebook page and website, it appears none of the WP members have bothered to reign in their supporters with a simple reminder to please be civil. I guess they don’t really mind since it benefits them, is the only conclusion I can draw.

        I don’t know about the SDP’s grassroots movement being backward; I’ve joined them on a few and they certainly seemed adequate, especially when you consider their size relative to WP.

      • 52 octopi 13 January 2013 at 17:32

        First let’s have a very basic lesson on how democracy works. Big is better than small. More people is better than fewer people.

        But second, let me tell you a story. Long long time ago in a place not very far away there were a bunch of western educated intellectuals (just like the SDP), who approached a bunch of Chinese speaking politicians with a fabulous grassroots setup (just like the WP) and asked to join forces together. For a while, they found a lot of success politically but it didn’t end so well for the Chinese speaking guys. The leader of the western educated guys was called Lee Kuan Yew and the leader of the Chinese speaking guys was called Lim Chin Siong.

        I’m not saying that you want to break their kneecaps in another operation coldstore or anything but opposition parties are opposition parties, they shouldn’t operate under the same umbrella unless there is a formal merger. And even then, political mergers are messy things, so you guys shouldn’t even think about this sort of “opposition unity”. I left another comment here where I said that opposition parties should be “platonic friends”. Which is, you’re on your own, WP is on their own. There can be help between the parties, stay friendly with each other, exchange notes, etc etc. But political alliances usually end in tears. You have been warned.

        The only “opposition unity” I can think of that’s useful is multiple parties ganging up to take potshots at the PAP. Otherwise forget it.

      • 53 Robox 14 January 2013 at 00:48

        The political CULTURE that I am describing IS DEFINITELY derived from that of Imperial China, except to Chinese and other retards in denial.

        I do know the difference between a political culture and and a political system, so don’t come here trying to teach me the difference between the two especially since all you have done is to conflate the two.

      • 54 yuen 14 January 2013 at 06:29

        > The only “opposition unity” I can think of that’s useful is multiple parties ganging up to take potshots at the PAP. Otherwise forget it.

        in the current situation, “opposition unity” means other parties giving way to WP which has the best chance of winning; SDP has obviously decided against this, even though it professes to believe in the general idea of unity

        SDP under Chiam See Tong once won three single member seats, WP won one in the same election; so SDP does have a track record/brand name to stand on; you can debate whether SDP without CST is still the same party of course;

        you could actually compare CSJ’s takeover of SDP with LKY’s win over Lim Chin Seong; LKY’s western educated group won over the chinese educated group because it emphasized economy rather than ideology; I guess you can say SDP’s recent spate of policy proposals emphasized economic issues, while WP prefers to talk more vaguely (e.g., Chen Show Mao’s invocation of Wei Zheng), so in a small way there is an analogy

    • 55 octopi 14 January 2013 at 11:46

      Robox, there is no place for you to be contemptuous to the views of the people, because this is a democracy. It doesn’t matter which political culture you are in. Furthermore, in many other parties in western democracies – I’m thinking about the republican party in the US, and the last days of New Labour, there is contempt for the weak.

      Yuen, Chiam See Tong attended ACS and is western educated.

  26. 56 Pap_stillbest@yahoo.com 13 January 2013 at 05:36

    You’re wrong about Chee. He now clarifies he was misinterpreted by the MSM.

    You’re idea that all opposition be free to contest in 3 or 4 corner fight to give more choice to voters is a very good one. In future it is best for opposition not to meet up before nomination day so that voters will have more choice and Singapore become more democratic under the PAP. Very good idea. You’re brilliant.

  27. 57 ziggy 13 January 2013 at 07:10

    The folks at SDP needs to to sit down and decide if it’s a political party or an activist group (because it’s acting more like the latter). The party clearly has the ability to attract high quality candidates and it has put out great proposals but all of it will be for naught without the right direction.

    Perhaps it is time for Dr. Chee to step aside and let someone else lead.

    Ps. Alex, I think you meant “anyone but the PAP”

  28. 58 ape@kinjioleaf 13 January 2013 at 08:38

    Reblogged this on Kin Jio Leaf and commented:
    Just when I thought SDP has finally begin to make progress then this…

  29. 59 Paul Peters 13 January 2013 at 09:45

    To Kris – many of us know Chee’s background very well..

  30. 60 The 13 January 2013 at 11:05

    /// visitor13 12 January 2013 at 18:14

    Alex, one of the bedrocks of BN’s success to win elections is that it has always know how to strike a balance between the fundamentalist stand of PAS and the staunchly secular stand of DAP and please both sides while allowing contradictions to thrive. ///

    Plus loads of vote buying, vote rigging, postal votes, gerrymendering, rural votes worth more than 5/6 times urban votes, cash handouts, etc. And sodomy I and II.

  31. 61 octopi 13 January 2013 at 11:49

    I think that opposition unity is a complex term that needs to be broken down. One formulation is that opposition parties are “platonic friends” of each other.

    Platonic friends don’t step on each other’s turf without talking it over yet. Platonic friends can hold joint events, like walkabouts. They can hold joint forums, exchange ideas, meet up to discuss politics with each other. Platonic friends say hi when they meet each other and do not badmouth each other in public.

    But platonic friends do not end up in bed with each other. They don’t live in the same households, they don’t have “you go into parliament and I run town council” business. They are not married, they don’t go into legal arrangements with each other. Loaning each other candidates is highly suspect. Unless they want to form formal alliances with each other. Most importantly, they don’t fuck each other, or fuck each other over.

    Platonic friends are careful when they’re in each other’s company and treat each other with respect, although they keep an arm’s length from each other.

    This idea of “opposition unity” must be broken down into a list of dos and don’ts otherwise it’s just two random words with no particular meaning at all.

  32. 62 Jake 13 January 2013 at 12:01

    One possible alternative is where SDP endorses WP’s candidate while WP agree to cover SDP’s policy proposal during its campaign. Not sure if it’s possible but maybe SDP speakers might be invited to give short speeches at WP’s rallies. Otherwise, a non-SDP member figure familiar with its policy papers can do this instead.

    However, all this would suppose that WP agrees with most if not all of SDP’s alternative policies. Another issue is that since WP never rolled out its own policy papers, would agreeing to do this be a discredit to them? This area (which is SDP’s strength) is one key weakness that WP needs to address before 2016 rolls around. If WP had its own viable alternative policy proposals, it’s organizational strength and prior electoral performance in Punggol East would have rendered the claims of the other parties moot.

    • 63 octopi 13 January 2013 at 15:58

      The sneakiest episode was when WP was accused of plagiarising material in parliament. I don’t know who started this plagiarism nonsense. Thereafter for whatever reason, it was no longer feasible for WP to bring up policy that it didn’t come up with itself. In a way this is sabo-ing the WP, but it probably means that if anybody else were to “feed” policy into WP, some people would be yelling “plagiarism!”

  33. 64 yuen 13 January 2013 at 13:32

    when discussing general principles like “opposition solidarity”, it is always necessary to keep in mind the practical aspect of “who benefits”; being the strongest opposition party, WP can always use its higher chance of success to justify muscling into the territory of other parties; in other words, it expects to be the greater beneficiary of this principle, at the expense of other parties, which is precisely why SDP is willing to go against the principle (while pretending to respect it by its cooperation proposal)

    part of the problem is WP has not maintained sufficient ground level efforts in Punggol East after the 2011 election – if it had done this, there will be a group of WP activists already familiar to PE voters, from which it can quickly identify a potential candidate and get him/her to start campaigning, instead of leaving the field for a week to the PAP candidate; for the same reason, it only has a weak case to argue against SDP “we have been there all along”

  34. 65 PAP less than two third majority ! 13 January 2013 at 16:00

    I agree with yawning bread, that it is a crazy idea, the worry is that such hare-brained concepts are translated to policies which the SDP will implement when they get into power (which I hope will never ever happen, *shudder*)

  35. 66 Alan 13 January 2013 at 21:04

    At the current situation, I don’t think SDP’s support from opposition voters can ever be better than WP if both of them are contesting the same seat. In fact I would predict SDP may even lose their deposit if opposition voters are forced to made a choice between the 2.

    CSJ has to face reality. But if he wants to act tough, he can go ahead to contest the seat. Just be prepared to suffer a humiliating defeat.

  36. 67 Observer 13 January 2013 at 22:33

    I think, Alex, you have underestimated the need for there to be opposition unity. It is not just a matter of, as you say, “utilitarian” reasons, or that Singaporeans are agnostic in issues such that parties don’t matter to them. Perhaps they are, but you have ignored the psychology of the voting process.

    The perceptions that voters have of both sides – the incumbents and opposition – is crucial. If voters see that the opposition is in disarray and offering them a slew of similar or differing sets of alternatives, then they might just stick to the incumbent for assurance and a more secure choice. You can’t just say that the basis of the votes are issues per se as if voting were purely rational, there are a lot of emotional perceptions and changing inclinations going on throughout, during the campaigns and voting day.

    Why is it necessary for the opposition to remain united? In your post, you have chosen to ignore history. Except for the 2011 elections, the opposition have not made inroads in parliament save for a couple of seats before that. That, is a sign of poor strategizing and the extraordinarily limited resources parties have against a hegemon. It is also evidence that, perhaps some of the parties are simply too consumed by their desire to compete that they have forgotten that, in the electoral boundaries drawn up for them, their votes have been in the range of 20-35% (excluding the WP) historically. That is a far cry from the 50% needed to win. Already, as you have probably seen during the fight for Aljunied, with the enormous resources and effort put up by the WP, they have managed to win about 4% more votes. That guarantees them a win but is not a very convincing margin.

    The point Alex, is whether the parties are willing to sacrifice and give up short-term gains in exchange for longer-term one, to delay the gratification of competing against one another for a larger say in parliament. Apparently, many of them do not see it imperative for them to do so, and if that is the case, nothing is going to change. The 2011 elections may have changed the dictum of history a bit but in the larger view of things, it has barely made a dent to the political landscape. Some seats may have been won but 9 out of 99 seats is really, a dent on the ship.

    • 68 yawningbread 13 January 2013 at 22:52

      But what does your “opposition unity” look like. Based on what you’re saying it seems like “all other opposition parties should support WP in whichever constituency WP wants because for sure, WP will have more support than any other party.”

      If so, when do we find out whether another party has more support than WP?

    • 69 Silly you 13 January 2013 at 22:59

      What unity? To each (party) his own!

      I would rather see the disunity that exists now than for the opposition to be seen as one united front.

      Yes, for a selfish reason. You don’t want the silly acts of some of the party members to tarnish your own party’s reputation, especially if you had sweated blood to build it up.

  37. 70 Rabbit 14 January 2013 at 00:33

    Punggol E is an easy target for various reasons. Palmergate and PAgate are closer to the heart of WP. AIMgate is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Bromptongate is another NEA shame. National Conversations are heading nowhere, to the people wishes, after more than 2 years in the last GE.

    Dr Koh does not have the charisma nor charm the like of his predecessor. His profile is too packed with memberships one wonders, does this PAP candidate simply want to enhance his profile many notches by putting himself up as candidate, instead of the real reason to take care of Punggol residents. The presence of heavy weight to support him will be another bane to him. Teo Chee Hean & Khaw Boon Wan no longer has many goods to say to defend them without being back-fired.

    The above combinations made perfect opportunity for Workers Party to have an easy run for additional seat in Parliament. What about warning Punggol residents of the possible price hike affecting everyone’s life after the budget speech? Thus, opposition parties should “behave” themselves when the breeze is not so favorable to PAP in this time of the year.

    SDP/RP and other individual small gangs, who have no confident in winning this BE, should step aside and stop making an open fool and tarnish their desperate image before the next GE. No doubt they will have national issues to bring forth in parliament, which the govt promised to look into. These parties must not forget Punngol residents have many unsettled municipal issues too, and only WP has the team & resources capable to manage those local issues. Until MND’s review is out regarding AIM’s conflict of interest and TC’s control & governance are cleaned up for good, it is still premature for SDP & RP to rush into the race and ended up neglecting the Town while debating in parliament. Thus, the most ideal party is WP, and with proves of 41% mandate in the last GE, which opposition party can confidently beat such records?

    WP’s silence does not mean they have no candidate to field. As we know LTK’s style, he didn’t want msm to read too much into his party, when msm has tendency of painting other parties in bad light. Already, ST was making poll (illegal?) that Punggol residents were supportive of Dr Koh. Such report, with dubious accuracy, were taking the boundary too far to favor PAP candidate at the infant stage of this BE.

    For the sake of taking Punggol E, do not confuse the residents with so many parties. Spare the old people there their trauma and wise up.

  38. 71 The Mole 14 January 2013 at 04:20

    I think the SDP should get a seat in parliament and have their views heard. They have credible people with credible proposals. So far all their work on housing and health has not had much impact because of a limited audience.

    Even is there is only one SDP voice, the government will have to stand up and listen which is good for Singapore.

    I am getting very disillusioned with WP. Since they sent six members to Parliament what have we heard – practically nothing except for some views on mundane municipal issues. Chen Show Mao whom everyone was expecting to ‘perform’ has been quieter than a mouse. Why are they not tackling the important issues like health and housing and immigration like what the SDP is trying to do?

    A wild thought suddenly occurred to me. I was watching Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy and thought is it not possible that LTK is a mole planted by the ruling party years ago to dissipate the opposition and when needed can be used gainfully. Recent events seem to prove this point.

    • 72 Robox 14 January 2013 at 12:06

      “I was watching Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy and thought is it not possible that LTK is a mole planted by the ruling party…”

      I wonder if this helps.

      Q. What does the WP have in common with the Elected Presidency, and schemes like the NMP and NCMP ones?

      A. They all exist as part of an elaborate plan to fool Singaporeans into believing that there are already sufficient checks and balances against the PAP, and therefore, electing more opposition members – TRUE opposition members – is unnecessary.

  39. 74 Frank 14 January 2013 at 10:19

    Hi YB,
    Thank you for your article. I fully agree with you that SDP has tripped itself even before the campaign has started.
    IMHO, in the passed, SDP confrontational style had already scare off many who yearn for more opposition representatives in the parliament. Now with latest from CSJ, more people like me have come to a conclusion the SDP is a definitely a no go.
    If I predict correctly, having pissed off so many, not only will SDP loose the deposit in this coming BE, party donation will be becoming harder to come by in the future as we have seen quite a number wrote in various forum that they will stop contributing SDP. With such irrational leader, I am not surprised that some members may jump ship when 2016 GE comes close. We shall see how’s the rally turn out going to be. I guess a lot of people will boycott to show their displeasure. Maybe SDP should follow PAP by providing free transport and chicken rice. ;)

  40. 75 Jake Tan 14 January 2013 at 10:49

    As a matter of practicality, it is still better for the non-governing parties to avoid running in the same wards. That said, parties which fail to make much headway in chipping away at PAP’s dominance should not be allowed to claim exclusivity in their supposed “traditional” areas — a case in point being the SDA in Punggol-Pasir Ris GRC and Punggol East. Democracy in Singapore will not be advanced if we keep to this mentality that parties should somehow have exclusive fiefs.

    WP is taking a gamble by ignoring the overtures for so-called “opposition unity”. The best case scenario for it would be for it to blow away the other non-governing parties — even if this did not end in a victory over the PAP. This would allow it to stake a claim in the next election — even if Punggol East SMC were somehow to be wiped from the electoral map during the next boundary revision exercise, they could conceivably use it as a spring-board to muscle into Punggol-Pasir Ris GRC (provided they have enough candidates). The worst case would be if WP were to do worse than its 41 % in the last GE and thus it might risk losing some of its shine.

    I think that individuals who are concerned with the importance of the so-called “opposition unity” are justified in doing so. However, if we look at things in perspective, the BE is only for one seat in parliament — hardly a dent in PAP’s super-majority. If a message is to be delivered against the PAP by the electorate of Punggol East, a situation where it scores below 50 % of the votes would be sufficient.

    SDP had rightly seen the BE as an opportunity to showcase its alternative policies for Singapore in preparation for 2016. There would be no problem of it running against WP if they had not come up with such shenanigans as the parliament seat-TC responsibility proposal and their veiled attempts to paint WP as being uncooperative. If they had just stated their intention that they are running to present their alternative proposals on a bigger platform they might conceivably succeed in causing the worst case scenario for WP as mentioned above. After their display so far, it might be hard to avoid them to avoid the outcome experienced by SDA’s Desmond Lim in GE 2011.

  41. 77 George Lam 14 January 2013 at 19:39

    With due respect, I find all this call for opposition ‘unity’ rather silly – esp. in the context of a BE. Look, every single political party exists for itself – its own philosophy. policies and beliefs and solutions, etc.

    If the opposition parties’ Davids wanted to unite against the PAP’s Goliath, they should or would have to work on some grand strategy well BEFORE any election, in particular, a GE. A BE is like kachang puteh – a minor opportunity – something that comes along out of the blue, it is therefore fair game for anyone to have a ‘go’, for private or party reason/agenda!

    What is there to split opposition unity about when there hadn’t been any in the first place? Obviously, you have to get the horse before the cart first in order for any talk or dream about such ‘unity’. When no ‘unity’ exists before an election – BE, GE, whatever – what unity can one talk of? When even informal standing ‘broad’ agreements between and among the opposition parties do not exists (as far as I know), is it possible or realisrtic to even begin to talk about horse-trading?

    Looking at the months after GE 2011, what had in fact stood out have been some very conscious efforts to build ‘party -differentiation’ – esp. the SDP (its proposals on health for example) and WP (the way it has chosen to respond to ‘hot’ issues of the day both in and outside parliament) – much like brand-differentiation in the commercial world, and for very good reasons too.

    One can see why SDP, WP and SDA want to have a ‘go’ – as long as NOT losing its deposit is NOT an important factor. The SDP may want to test out its policies offered by the BE platform, the WP wants to contest to see if it could wrest power from the incumbent and SDA may want to see whether it is still relevant at all after the last GE defeat. These are all logical and practical political reasons to want to throw your hat into the BE ring to find out BEFORE next GE. And by all means.

    In any event, realistically, how can they ever hammer out any sort of a workable deal at such a short notice!? IMO, the parties rather than waste time on doing the impossible of ‘hammering’ out a deal at the eleventh hour, should use it for their own purposes – to prepare for the big battle up ahead in a few years time, or just declare your intention not to come in as at least one did, and from the sideline take lessons from the unfolding events without having to pay for the tuition fee!

    In politics, it makes little sense to be magnanimous when one does not have the means or luxury for it. If the opposition parties can see eye-to-eye there would have been only ONE party opposing the PAP. That this is not so, is a fact. Citing the ‘Malaysians’ as a model is like comparing orange with their pineapple – the scenario and political environment and realities, etc etc, cannot be more different from ours.

    Surely the single most important result is whether the PAP would have its majority reduced. For the WP it would be feedback on how its fortune has turned for the better or for the worse post-GE2011, which is good feedback for GE2016.

    So, by all means, every party for itself, as far as BE Ponggol East is concerned. To do so would be to lose out on a valuable opportunity to find out, to test itself, for the big show up ahead. Even for the WP, I would say winning or losing is not the most important thing in this BE although in my opinion it has a slim shot of doing it, but it should be on its own merits and not because such and such a party, did not come in to ‘split’ (?) votes as if it has copyright claim to them. To win on your own standing beats any other way of doing it.

  42. 78 T 14 January 2013 at 23:50

    IMHO, SDP has done a great job promulgating alternative policies for the nation. However, SDP badly needs a PR department and a good marketing/brand strategy. As a public entity SDP has not been able to understand public sentiments.

  43. 79 LC 15 January 2013 at 03:26

    Unfortunately the image of the SDP has been damaged by the grandstanding of Dr Chee in the past and now by Mr Jufrie and Dr Chee, who essentially are trying the WP make look bad in the press by portraying their “intransigence”. I think a large majority of people in Singapore do not like SDP’s confrontational style, and SDP should really have shown some more political nous to read the current mood. The current SDP press campaign to call for unity with the WP is just more grandstanding in the people’s minds. This is very damaging to their image. The image in the minds of many of Dr Chee and by extension the SDP is that he is trying to claim top dog status from the WP, very much like how he engineered the takeover of SDP years ago. This may not be true, but it is the perception that counts. Similarly, while the SDP has come up with great policy
    proposals, their negative image will take much more to dispel. In contrast the WP is seen as being reasonable, non confrontational, hardworking and can get things done despite obstacles in their path, for eg putting their own TC system in place despite AIM attempts to obstruct them. This may seem irrational, silly or even primitive, but this is Singapore.

  44. 80 yuen 15 January 2013 at 11:16

    while people argue about SDP, SDA has decided to field Desmond Lim, making all talk about opposition unity moot

    you could laugh at him for getting less than 5% in 2011, but it should be remembered that SDA was active in Punggol for some years, till WP muscled into Punggol East SMC just before the 2011 election, and its brand name squeezed SDA to the margin; in the short term it was kudos for WP, and the long term effect is still to be seen

  45. 81 LC 15 January 2013 at 14:22

    “We knew that all along, we are going to just have to do it, do whatever we have decided and go on,” said Dr Chee. He was speaking to reporters last night, after a two-and-a-half hour meeting at the SDP headquarters to select the party’s candidate for the coming polls. – Channel News Asia

    I don’t know about you, but this looks like yet another incredible statement by Dr Chee, showing that the “campaign” for unity was simply a staged show for public consumption on the part of SDP. Furthermore, the premature press releases even before WP could reply is simply calculated to obtain just such a WP response. The SDP had asked the WP for a meeting on Saturday, then proposed to bring it forward to Friday, but already on Thursday they claimed that Sylvia Lim had given them a non answer, so the Friday meeting was off. What about waiting till Friday, if you are sincere? And SDP doesn’t show Sylvia’s email. This just gives the horrible image that the SDP can’t be trusted. Their image problem just gets worse.

  46. 82 The 15 January 2013 at 17:13

    So, CHEE says BYE to BY-erection.

    If KJ insists on contesting, he will lose his deposit.

    Congrats, Li Lian, on your overwhelming victory.

    Let’s pop the champagne.

    • 83 bee 15 January 2013 at 21:49

      actually, your choice of words on chee isnt amusing and absolutely unwarranted. kj possesses more intellect and would have more guts in parliament than anyone from wp. but life’s never fair and singaporean are politically naive. i bet my last dollars than pap will win. you can therefore save the money on the champagne.

  47. 86 phylej 16 January 2013 at 09:52

    Are there any good candidates left for a credible liberal opposition? SDP may have the heart, but this episode has been so damaging to their image, I doubt it can be rehabilitated in time for 2016. The younger generation of voters have been left with a bad impression from this flip-flopping.

    Between the ruling party and the WP, I detect little difference. In that case, I’d stick with the one with the proven track record at governance. I feel extremely sore that in 2016, the only credible choices may be between two conservative camps.

  48. 87 George Lam 16 January 2013 at 19:57

    ” I think a large majority of people in Singapore do not like SDP’s confrontational style, and SDP should really have shown some more political nous to read the current mood. ”

    One shouldn’t be too sure about this. There are a lot of people,esp. the younger voters with ideals who would want a more ‘go-getting’ style to respond to the seemingly arrogant and resistant to change political stance of the PAP. If the PAP do not see what’s coming at it in the horizon, or refuses to accommodate, instead still insisting that it can contain, bottle up or even turn away or commute such a challenge, then it deserves to go down the history book of local politics as an has-been great political party.

    • 88 yawningbread 16 January 2013 at 23:16

      I have the same feeling. The rising number of comments that the WP is too “soft” is another sign that there is a section of Singaporeans who want a more robust opposition. How numerous are they? That’s the question.


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For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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