Singapore — There is no doubt that 2020 will go down in history as a watershed moment for Singapore’s opposition, with nearly 50 per cent of the candidates of the Workers’ Party (WP) winning the seats they contested.
For the first time in the country’s history, an opposition party has taken two Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). And while the People’s Action Party (PAP) retains its supermajority in Parliament, its share of the vote in most, if not all, the constituencies it contested is lower than that in the 2015 elections, most notably in key battlegrounds.
Having said that, however, it will still be an uphill political battle for the other opposition parties. And as close observers of this year’s GE, we would like to offer our two cents on what the other parties can learn from the WP’s success.
Even before the WP announced its line-up for the elections, it put out a video teaser that caught the attention of many people. The full-length video that followed a few days later was an even bigger success. Professional without ever becoming slick or manufactured, and somehow managing to reach people’s hearts, the high production values of WP’s campaign video and photo material played a big part in its success.
Many WP candidates have the “It Factor” that made them appealing to many, foremost of whom would be “Famous Jamus” Lim, whose intelligence and charisma shone throughout the campaign. He was perfectly sincere, while seeming to enjoy himself thoroughly.
Ms Nicole Seah also captured the hearts of many, as did Ms Raeesah Khan, even after two police reports were filed against her. Married couple He Ting Ru and Terence Tan, who although like Ms Seah were second-time candidates, also appealed to many, as did former blue-collar worker Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim.
As famous as Associate Professor Jamus Lim has become, the man of the hour is, undoubtedly, WP chief Pritam Singh. While many wondered if the absence of former party leader Low Thia Khiang would be a problem for the party, Mr Singh showed that he’s truly fit to be a leader.
The WP chief was praised by many for standing by Ms Khan, figuratively and literally, supporting her despite the police report and standing beside her as she made a public apology for comments made in 2018. He said that he had no regret in fielding the candidate and that he would be “a bit disappointed if our candidates will try to sanitise their past”.
4. A clean campaign
Mr Singh and the whole WP team consistently took the high road throughout the campaign.
The WP chief had shots fired against him even before the campaign started, with the PAP’s Tan Wu Meng publishing an article on June 19 on the party website criticising the WP head for speaking in support of writer-poet-playwright Alfian Sa’at in Parliament.
The party was also criticised for failing to send a representative to a debate in Mandarin on July 1, for which Mr Singh offered an apology.
Not once during the campaign did the WP resort to attacking or smearing others, even when the public perceived that they were on the receiving end of bullying. Having labelled itself the “credible” and “reasonable” opposition, the WP lived up to it. /TISG