Socio-political commentator Gilbert Goh has suggested that a coalition between the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) could be “feasible” and possibly the best way possible for the next General Election (GE).
A career counsellor who runs the transitioning.org support site for unemployed and underemployed Singaporeans, Mr Goh is perhaps most well known for the protests he organises, championing the rights of Singaporean workers.
His most famous protest could be his stand against the government’s 2013 Population White Paper that targeted a 6.9 million resident population.
Mr Goh also has experience working with local opposition parties. He rose to prominence in 2011 when he contested Tampines GRC under the National Solidarity Party ticket in that year’s General Election (GE).
In the 2015 GE, Mr Goh ran as part of the Reform Party’s team contesting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s own ward, Ang Mo Kio GRC. Mr Goh and his colleagues lost both the 2011 and 2015 GEs.
In a recent blog post on transitioning.org, Mr Goh wrote that many seem to be clamouring for a loose coalition between the PSP and other parties, since the PSP had its official launch earlier this month.
Mr Goh said that there are various opinions people hold on which parties the PSP should contest with or whether the party should not collaborate with another party. He presented four of the most popular opinions on this topic and debated the merits of each opinion.
The first opinion is that the PSP should form a coalition with all the opposition parties in Singapore, to present a united alternative to the dominant ruling party.
Mr Goh pointed out how the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), which was formed with four opposition parties headed by veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong in 2001, has since collapsed under disagreement and conflict as a reason why a coalition with all parties would not work.
Asserting that a coalition of all opposition parties “will bring forth much inherent challenges such as character differences of individual party chiefs plus the added difficulty in trying to align all the parties’ agenda under one-umbrella uniform goal,” Mr Goh said that it may be “tough to bring all the parties to embrace a similar goal and vision.”
He added that such a coalition should be discouraged as “potential conflict and friction internally could eventually bring down the alliance before it could even start to contest it’s first election. The past history of the failure of SDA should alert Dr Tan to its potential pitfalls and dangers.”
Mr Goh then considered the opinion that the PSP should form a coalition with the Workers’ Party (WP) – the only opposition party that currently has a presence in Parliament.
Although he conceded that the “possibility of a alliance with WP will likely send shivers down PAP’s spine as you are looking at two big opposition giants joining forces,” Mr Goh said that it is unlikely that the parties would team up since ex-WP chief Low Thia Khiang does not seem to have a favourable view of opposition coalitions.
In the past, Mr Low has said: “All political parties have different directions and ideals, they won’t necessarily have the same views and approaches to policies. On the issue of what kind of opposition party is most beneficial for Singapore, the views are also divided.
“Therefore, given Singapore’s current political climate, to want all the opposition parties to form a unified force is an impossible goal…the fear is that eventually, not only will they be unable to advance together, but they will splinter and become fragmented.”
“This kind of outcome will only make the people again lose faith in the opposition and become an impediment in Singapore’s democratic progress.”
Mr Goh felt that the WP would not be willing to enter into an alliance given Mr Low’s views. Mr Goh also had a negative view of the opinion that the PSP should not collaborate with any other party and should contest the election on its own. He cautioned:
“The fact that it is a new party without any seats yet gives people the feel that it is still pre-matured and untested. It will be a different matter if PSP has already won some Parliamentary seats after election and this will allow the party to form alliance with other smaller parties credibly.”
He, however, said that a coalition between the PSP and a party like the SDP could work. Mr Goh said that the “SDP has being sincere in wanting to form a alliance with other parties all along and even hosted an event for seven opposition parties early this year.
“The possibility of a SDP-PSP alliance is both mouth-watering and positive and hopefully this can attract more people to join the opposition front.”
Noting that the SDP is a strong party that has won much support from Singaporeans, Mr Goh added that “it will be great news if they can team up with PSP first to build up an alliance and contest the forthcoming election together.”