“On Friday, Mr Wong, who leads the PAP team in Bishan-Toa Payoh Group representation Constituency (GRC), had said all political parties must have specific goals and values, and asked what the borrowing of members from other parties meant for voters” (‘Clear That Even The PAP Doesn’t Speak With One Voice’, Miss Lin Yanqin).
The report “‘Clear That Even The PAP Doesn’t Speak With One Voice’” (April 24, 2011) by Miss Lin Yanqin: following a move by the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) to loan three of its political members to the Reform Party (RP) as potential candidates for the upcoming General Elections (GE), there have been rumblings on the ground – especially from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) – contending that it undermines the democratic process, especially when such movements are not transparent. These sentiments run in tandem with commentaries that assert frequent switches – in the form of resignations and re-introductions – would only confuse voters, and potentially reduce on-the-ground support for the respective political parties.
The ramifications from these processes of “loaning” are evident. First, in spite of reassurances from the central executive committees, how can the political candidates convincingly reconcile differences in values and goals with the new party – regardless of the purported similarities – after these considerably last-minute changes? Second, if the cadres are running as teams in group representation constituencies (GRCs), would the relatively short run-in and campaigning period be sufficient to develop team dynamics holistically? Most importantly, the minimal exposure to the ground – especially if the individuals have not been engaged in the communities they are contesting – would compromise their abilities to relate to specific bread-and-butter issues or concerns.
At the same time, it is worth contemplating why the parties have undertaken such endeavours; endeavours some have asserted as being tantamount to political suicide. Off the get-go, there is the inherent fear and stigma that comes with joining the Opposition and contesting as a candidate; especially since the PAP administration has constantly reiterated the “change from within” maxim for interested Singaporeans. This trepidation and caution has made it difficult for Opposition parties to recruit members into its ranks.
Next, the presence – as well as the size and quantity – of GRCs have made it even more difficult for the Opposition to form credible teams to contest effectively in these areas. The argument for minority representation has been convincingly rebutted by Opposition politicians and political observers, with feasible alternatives for consideration; so insistence on GRCs continues to raise the barriers for competition. Since a constituent’s decision at the ballot box is not merely a affirmation for an individual candidate, but also for the party’s proposals and ideals, the Opposition’s insistence to contest in every constituency to give every eligible Singaporean a chance to vote is understandable. Voting for the Opposition – and thereby giving it a mandate – can also be an effectual gauge on the performance of the incumbent government.
The Opposition dilemma is apparent; perhaps in the long-run, gradually reducing the size and numbers of GRCs – and potentially doing away with it – might be the panacea for these considerations.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.