Dr Tan Cheng Bock will be “tarnishing his reputation” by “mixing with this particular group”, said political scientist and academic Derek da Cunha in his Facebook. He was responding to the press release by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) that some opposition parties have decided to co-operate in order to present a unified front at the next elections, and that they have asked Dr Tan to lead them.
In describing the political parties mentioned in the press release as “political deadweight”, Dr da Cunha said: “I respect Dr Tan Cheng Bock. But mixing with this particular crowd – which in the pecking order of non-PAP parties rank as 3rd, 4th and 5th raters — will not do anything for his reputation.”
He added: “He will simply be tarnishing his reputation. He should display a bit more discernment. If he intends to stand at the next GE, he should do so as an independent or as part of a team of independents contesting a GRC.”
SDP said that it was “not seek(ing) to spearhead the effort,” to unite the opposition. The opposition party proposed that Dr Tan “undertake the task of leading the effort and called on him to initiate future steps.”
Dr da Cunha suggested that SDP made this proposal because it it is toxic in the eyes of most voters under its current leadership.
“Since a decade ago one of its tactics has been to take (pictures), and associate, with respectable people in the hope that this would move the negative public perception of the party, i.e., since respectable people are prepared to mix with it then it must best kosher,” he said.
Speaking of branding which he claims is “a major premium to personality” needed to win an election, the academic suggested: “If in the byelection in 2016, the WP had fielded a candidate; even though that constituency is not one it has contested in recent history, in all likelihood it would have secured the seat.”
“Personality, especially in the Westminster system of electoral politics, is on-balance viewed negatively by voters who are always looking for reasons why they dislike a candidate and therefore cannot vote for him,” he added.
Dr da Cunha said: “I have analysed elections in Singapore long enough to know that you cannot underestimate the Singapore voter’s visceral distaste for a number of opposition personalities. Even a severely underperforming PAP will not move a segment of the electorate to vote against it if the alternative is truly 3rd, 4th and 5th raters.”
SDP’s report said that Dr Tan attended the meeting as an observer and that he responded to the offer to lead this coalition of opposition political parties saying, “if you want me to lead, then we must think of country first. If we go in, we must go in as a team.”