The State Of The Opposition

The State Of The Opposition

I want to state upfront that I am for a good opposition.

I don’t think anyone intellectually rigorous can argue against that.

In the past, some quarters of the PAP have insinuated that only a one-party system can work; this is patently illogical.

A one-party system works if that party is good; if that party is bad, then it doesn’t work.

The flip-side of that argument is just as intellectually flimsy – that Singapore necessarily needs an opposition as a check-and-balance.

Obviously, if that opposition is good, then the check-and-balance works.

If we have an incompetent opposition, then we might as well have none.

It is thus in the interest of Singapore to not only have a good ruling party, but a good, competent and loyal opposition as well.

So on Nomination Day GE 2020, what is the state of the Opposition?

Here is my view.

A) The Workers’ Party

The WP is a party in transition. Its most successful and fearsome leader, Mr. Low Thia Khiang has stepped down. So have two other veteran WP MPs , Chen Show Mao and Png Eng Huat.

In their place are a group of young members, led by new leader Mr. Pritam Singh.

Pritam has matured since he became a first time MP in 2011, where he hot-headedly retorted in Parliament that he ”only answers to his residents”. Under the mentorship of Mr. Low he has mellowed and although not as aggressive as Mr. Low, he is following Mr Low’s ‘moderate-opposition’ formula with great discipline.

He is surrounded by a group of former NCMPs Yee Jenn Jong, Gerald Giam, Leon Perrara and Denis Tan, as well as a slate of professional, highly educated, and eloquent new recruits.

I think even Mr. Lee Kuan Yew in his heyday would have problems calling them incompetent; most of the candidates that the WP are fielding would not look out-of-place on a PAP slate.

But this is a team in transition and I think the WP knows that.

Other then Aljunied GRC, the WP has spread out their firepower quite evenly amongst the other constituencies. It is very likely they are trying to maximise their chances of winning all the NCMP seats, by being the best losing candidates in as many constituencies as possible.

I believe that in 5-10 years when this group are all in their late 40s and early 50s, they will be a formidable opponent to the PAP’s super-majority.

But not now.

They are too inexperienced in a time of global crisis, with Singaporean’s lives and livelihoods at stake.

Risks can be taken during peaceful, prosperous times, but as a voter, just as I am with my investments during this period, I would be extremely risk-averse.

Fortunately, NCMPs now have equal voting rights to elected MPs.

If they do not get elected, it is my fervent hope that all 12 NCMPs seats will go to the WP, to this bunch of eloquent, moderate young people led by Pritam.

They would make excellent Parliamentarians, with full voting rights, but without the extra burden of being town councillors.

They can act as an effective check-and-balance these 5 years, of which at least half will be spent fighting the pandemic, and what probably will be the greatest recession the world has seen since 1929.

And then in 2025, with that experience under their belt, and the global crisis over, I would love to see them challenge the PAP with renewed vigour.

B) Progress Singapore Party

Unfortunately, because of Tan Cheng Bock and Lee Hsien Yang, the PSP will find it hard to shake off the image of a party of angry men, with their personal axes to grind.

Questions must be asked whether it is believable that in a short span of 5 years after the passing of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the PAP has “lost its way”.

Or have other things happened to turn two former establishment-men, who have thrived under PAP rule, to suddenly turn against their friends and family?

I don’t believe the former.

C) Singapore Democratic Party

The SDP has not come close to winning even an NCMP seat, ever since Chee Soon Juan ousted his mentor and party-founder Mr. Chiam See Tong in 1994.

As long as the Chiams do not forgive Chee, he is a political zombie.

The only thing that can save Chee is not only a very public forgiveness, but for the Chiams to adopt him as a son, and for him to change his name by deed-poll to Chiam See Juan.

Which isn’t going to happen.

The SDP is thus stronger with him fighting in an SMC, and not burdening his team mates.

Paul Tambyah is a leader in his field, a much respected doctor, and a nice man.

However, is he a politician? Can he walk the ground, climb block-after-block of HDB flats and connect on the ground?

In Bukit Panjang SMC, Teo Ho Pin was a formidable MP, doing his work steadily and effectively.

He is being replaced by Liang Eng Hwa who has also been on the ground for years in a neighbouring ward.

Whether Dr. Tambyah can translate his popularity online to the gruelling retail politics of ground campaigning is a big question mark.

And so are his socialist ideas – remember in 2015 when he said to cut military spending to fund healthcare?

Singaporeans are a pragmatic lot and no socialist party has come close to winning anything since 1965.

Finally, I think Dr. Vivian and his team in Bukit Timah-Holland will have an easy time against a rump SDP team left by Chee and Dr. Tambyah.

D) The Rest

The rest of the political parties are in my opinion electoral filler.

Only Jose Raymond of the SPP has a chance in Potong Pasir. He has worked very hard these last few years. But he is sadly, no Chiam See Tong.

Lim Tean will provide political theatre ranting against Mrs Josephine Teo, but again, whatever you think about her handling of foreign workers, elections are local affairs. The PAP’s roots are deep in the constituency, and have done much ground work these 5 years, whilst Lim Tean was doing his YouTube videos.

But it is good to give Singaporeans a choice.

And it keeps all the PAP candidates busy.

In the days of walkovers, heavyweights who were not challenged could roam around and lend support to those who were.

Now, regardless of how weak their opponents are, they are tied up by these smaller parties in their own constituencies.

CONCLUSION

I disagree with the prevailing view that the PAP will have an easy victory.

All constituencies are challenged, and for the first time, the West sees a well-known challenger, and a former PAP MP from that area, no less.

The WP’s candidates though young and inexperienced, are credible.

We are facing the greatest crisis since independence.

I cannot and will not tell you who to vote for.

But I will say do not vote tactically.

Vote for who you want to govern us these 5 years.

It is a dark and dangerous time.

Do not vote wisely.

Instead, vote conservatively.

There is no better time than now to be kiasu.

⁃ Calvin Cheng

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog post is an attempt to persuade or otherwise induce anybody to vote for any candidate. Nor an advertisement for any political party or candidate. My views are purely my own.

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