The online and social media discourse is anecdotally dominated by anti-establishment voices. We all know what goes on in cyberspace is not reflective of the voting outcomes due to the bubble and echo chamber many of us engage in.
In this piece I’ll try to play the devil’s advocate with even myself and move the conversation across the aisle and examine things from the non-conventional online perspective.
Baring a small number of 3-corner fights, most voters will have a choice between a PAP and some other opposition party. I hesitate to group all the opposition parties as a single slate as I recognise they are all different.
Hence I shall structure this post in a way to appeal to each category of voters on why they should not vote for the specific opposition party that chose to stand in their district. After that I shall move on to the general national issues and PAP’s plus points.
Only the SDP, PSP and WP will be mentioned as frankly, I don’t think the others have a chance. I may only mention in brief the policies of the opposition parties when relevant. After all, there is no hope they will get enacted other than nudging the PAP’s position slightly to the left.
To voters in SDP-contested wards
The Singapore Democratic Party has a long history. It is the only party other than the Workers Party and Singapore People’s Party to ever have MPs elected into Parliament.
However, that happened so long ago that it’s pretty much insignificant today and the party that elected those MPs is nowhere in the same state as the party contesting now. Don’t count on it as useful experience in estate management.
SDP I feel is still heavily-personality driven by one man, its Secretary-General Dr Chee Soon Juan (CSJ).
He is the most well-known face of the party. He writes plenty of books one I have personally reviewed. His party pushes out lots of online content with him featured front and centre. He speaks in almost all of the debates and (televised) rallies.
But that’s the thing, who else is there? Its chairman Dr Paul Tambayah appears occasionally but still trails somewhat behind.
This is a video of his recent online rally. Go to at 22:18. He said and I quote:
I’ve walked for 30 years, and if I have to walk another 30 years to stand up for what is right, then consider it done.
His entire rally speech and that statement sounds passionate and inspirational on the surface. But let’s take things a bit deeper. 60 years? Probably only Lee Kuan Yew can rival that.
SDP is still heavily centred around one man with no hint of succession planning unlike the PAP and WP.
The SDP can obviously offer counterexamples to claim they are more than CSJ with their array of candidates, but the test is this. If CSJ is removed from the SDP as-is, do you think the party can stand and maintain the ideals in their current form as you the voter would expect if you chose them?
This is not an unfounded scenario. CSJ has a history of being sued, fined, jailed and disqualified from contesting. Seen alone, those may rightly seem to be politically-motivated. In the big picture, those incidents happened not once but far more often than any other opposition politician that it’s hard not to form a pattern. It could very well happen again.
The SDP does not give the impression of stability, and stability is what you want when you vote for someone to stay the course in managing your estate wisely and be your representative in Parliament.
I choose not to dredge up more dirt like CSJ’s misusing of university funds, hunger strike and ouster of the previous leader of the SDP Chiam See Tong as that has been done to the death for decades already. Let’s look to SDP’s (or CSJ’s) future instead of flogging a dead horse.
SDP’s policies in brief, are the most liberal, progressive and lie at the leftmost end of the spectrum relative to the other parties. Liberal progressive policies hold great appeal to youths but you don’t get something for nothing, it tends to alienate the other generations who may not hold such views.
I don’t think the average Singapore voter really cares about those lah. I’m not discounting a time when Singapore is receptive to those ideals, the time is just not now, probably not for a few more elections at least.
Forcing such controversial policies down the throats of an unready electorate may in the worst case tear apart the social fabric of this country.
To voters in PSP-contested wards
The Progress Singapore Party is very new and just slightly more than a year old. Founded by former PAP MP and presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock (TCB).
Under normal circumstances for a party with such short history, it’s hard to really comment much about it. However with famous members like TCB himself and the brother of our PM, Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) merits some discussion.
There are some problems with party stability notably with the supposed high turnover of members.
He also said that PSP has more than 1,000 members, and having between 20 and 30 people resign was “no big deal”.
“To me, it’s no big deal. Currently, there are so many waiting to join us,” said Dr Tan in a session where he also appealed to viewers to join the party.
Does that sound like a red flag to you? For me it certainly does especially for a new party. The way TCB waves away the issue demands greater scrutiny. Let’s ignore the forming government part for now as none of the opposition parties have any hope of doing so yet. Consider a party like that running your GRC or constituency and its members just leave. What is going to happen to your estate?
Allowing the high-profile entry of LHY is in my view also an issue. On the surface, it is the right of any private citizen to join any political party they please.
However, LHY is no ordinary private citizen. He is the son of Singapore’s founding father and the brother of the current PM. That family position carries a lot of weight.
LHY said Singapore does not need “another Lee”. It’s true he has not been fielded as a candidate. Then why bother to have such a high-profile membership-card presentation session in public if not to milk things politically? Are the other PSP members accorded the same treatment?
In the face of these 2 major issues, I urge voters in PSP-contested wards to seriously consider whether this is the right party to be your voice in Parliament and estate manager.
Give this very-new PSP a pass for this election so they have time to settle any underlying issues they may have. If they come back in the following GE, then let’s reconsider.
To voters in WP-contested wards
One nickname of the Workers Party is PAP-lite.
This has been brought up by Vivian at 40:01 of the video. I anecdotally believe this is the sentiment shared by many Singaporeans.
As much as the WP may claim otherwise, perception is important. In my view, if we want to elect an alternative, they must bring something significantly different and better to the table. Otherwise, we are just electing an alternative for the sake of electing an alternative.
The PAP has been accused of parachuting candidates from the military and civil service. Is the WP totally different in this aspect? WP’s representative in that debate Jamus Lim seems just as parachuted based on his high qualifications. Similar to former MP Chen Show Mao.
Another cause for concern was their lack of a representative in the Mandarin debate on Channel 8. Its Secretary-General Pritam Singh apologised giving the reason as “the proficiency required to participate in a live debate is of a higher order”.
Is it really that bad? As Singapore’s premier opposition party you cannot find a single Chinese speaker to go on National TV to debate your policies? It speaks volumes on the lack of diversity among its candidates.
Just as the opposition can level claims that the PAP today is no longer the same PAP as its initial leaders. This same claim can be leveled on the WP for being a far cry from the days of Low Thia Khiang with his eloquent Teochew speeches. By extension, this is no longer the same WP that won Hougang and Aljunied.
To voters in WP-held wards in Hougang and Aljunied
This group of voters is in the most unique position in SG and deserve a separate section than just lumped together under a WP-contested ward.
Candidates from other parties keep asking you to give them a chance. You chose to try the opposing side for 2 terms (Aljunied) some for decades (Hougang).
Let me ask a fair question, is your estate any better managed under WP compared to the PAP of before?
If the answer is no, the choice should be clear cut. If it’s the same, then it’s a coin toss whether it’s necessary for the WP to continue serving in your town council. A case can be made take into account the bigger picture to elect PAP MPs then let WP serve as NCMPs to increase the overall number of voices nationally in Parliament.
Let me continue more on this in the next section.
Now after having gone through the push factors why you should not vote for that specific opposition party, let’s go through general issues and pull factors on why the PAP deserves your vote.
This is a COVID-election so there is no running away from this issue. Whether the PAP govt has done well in its handling of the COVID-19 situation varies greatly depending on who you ask and what benchmark you use.
If you compare to New Zealand, Taiwan and Vietnam, SG is really bad. Compared to most European nations and the US, SG has come out way ahead. Our community cases are relatively small with the death rates among the lowest in the world. It’s true most Singaporeans can agree more could have been done to curb the worker dormitory saga.
It is easy in hindsight to criticise the government for not making the wearing of masks compulsory or shut our borders earlier. I would say the PAP has done the best they could given the information we had at the point in time weighed carefully against the economic repercussions.
Our carefully-built up reserves were kept precisely for a rainy day like this. If the PAP did not have the foresight to do this or were corrupt, SG wouldn’t have weathered this storm as well as it did. No doubt, our unemployment rate has shot up, businesses have shuttered and people are angry. But it could have been far worse.
Consider this litmus test, would you prefer to be in SG or any other country. The answer should be pretty clear.
If we do not vote for a party for a job well done, I don’t know what is the point of an election then. It’s like doing your best in your job to produce tangible results but your boss chooses to promote your colleague who did nothing significant at all.
Equal NCMP powers
The NCMP scheme was adjusted a few years back to give full voting powers and a total of 12 seats to the opposing winners and best opposing losers in Parliament. Furthermore, the NCMPs have all the benefits of exposure and speaking in Parliament yet don’t have the extra job of managing a Town Council.
The WP may still say one more PAP member won’t make a difference but one more WP MP will. I beg to differ, this NCMP scheme means the conventional zero-sum mentality has to be discarded. A loss of just one more PAP member will make a difference with all else like the number of opposing voices remain the same.
Consider these scenarios:
- If the opposition wins 12 seats, means no NCMP seats will be awarded and Parliament will have 81 PAP members and 12 opposing members. One seat per ward for a total of 93.
- If the opposition don’t win any seats, there will be 93 PAP MPs and 12 opposing NCMPs for a total of 105 voices.
Which is better? 93 or 105 brains in Parliament? We have 12 extra PAP members to evaluate and critique policies. How is that a bad thing? Voters can have their cake and eat it too. The best case scenario with sole respect to the amount of diversity of voices in Parliament is in fact for the PAP to win all the seats.
Which ruling party in any other country is so magnanimous to give their losers the same seat at the table? A seat that has all the power and benefits with none of the responsibilities.
If the opposition candidate entitled to the seat chooses not to take it up out of principles, it’s his/her loss. I bet the next best opposition loser will be more than willing to grab it.
Much has been harped on by the opposition parties that all opposing presence in Parliament could be wiped out in a freak election. This is patently false given the NCMP scheme as explained above.
This same Freak Election logic can just as easily apply to the PAP losing their Parliamentary majority. If there is a by-election strategy then obviously this point does not hold but we are not in this situation as all seats are being contested.
The problem of PAP losing their majority is serious as no opposition party has shown to be capable to govern our country. They have even admitted so.
They may claim the probability of this scenario is slim. That’s regrettably only one side of the story. Let’s bring up this famous equation
Risk = Likelihood x Impact
The likelihood may be relatively slim as they say, but if the impact is sky-high, like the fate, economy and even the lives of citizens in an entire country, then the risk is still high. A Freak Election with a PAP wipeout is thus not a low-risk affair you should trust the opposition parties’ words on.
To be fair, a PAP without the majority of seats is admittedly not the end of Singapore though. The PAP will probably have to build a coalition with one of the opposition parties in order to form the government.
Now whether a coalition government is good or bad is out of the scope of this post. What is certain is that the larger partner (PAP) will have to compromise somewhat on its ideals and policies in order to accommodate the smaller party (some opposition party).
The larger party is thus held hostage to the desires of the smaller party no doubt slowing down the policy making process. Some policies we initially believe have no chance of being enacted now may suddenly be brought to the spotlight. Something we don’t want right now especially given the highly-fluid situation our nation faces today.
On building up an alternative
Opposition supporters talk about voting opposition parties in to slowly build up an alternative as insurance. It sounds nice in theory but does the past evidence bear that out?
Let’s look at SDP and WP, the two parties which historically have significant presence in Parliament.
After attaining 3 seats in 1991, the SDP lost the seats in the next election. No doubt significantly due to Dr Chiam’s ouster by CSJ. The party has never recovered since.
The WP gained Aljunied in GE2011. From that time to the present there have been alleged cases of cronyism and town council mismanagement.
So when given the opportunities by voters, the opposition parties have been shown to be not up to the task to competently managing their own party or a district of scale and complexity a tiny fraction of Singapore. And this is considering that their A team is at the helm. What more do you think will happen to the B and C teams in the other contested districts if they win?
In the working world, we are not given the promotion just because we ask for it. We have to prove that we can excel at our existing responsibilities and much more to show we are ready for the next level. Why should politics be any different?
It was personally refreshing to write this post. I hope you would learn as much as I did writing this post to see things from multiple perspectives to avoid staying in your own bubble.
I no doubt, feel more comfortable and confident in my vote choice knowing that I did my best to consider as many points of view as possible.