Three fringe opposition parties sign resolution for opposition unity – a PR stunt?

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The Reform Party (RP), People’s Power Party (PPP) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have reportedly decided to sign a resolution pledging greater unity among the opposition in Singapore.

A copy of the resolution document that has been circulating reportedly calls on the parties to pledge to “establish the interests of our nation over and beyond the interests of any one political party, family or individual”.

Expressing concern over the almost total monopoly the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) enjoys in parliament, the resolution calls on the opposition parties to “commit to working towards greater opposition unity in order that Singaporeans are presented with a meaningful choice at elections”.

The resolution, however, does not outline a detailed plan prescribing how the parties could come together and work together.

This comes after seven opposition parties met on 28 July to discuss the possibility of forming an opposition coalition, to be led by former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock. An ex-ruling party politician, Dr Tan lost the 2011 presidential race by less than 0.4 per cent of the votes and was not allowed to contest the 2015 presidential election.

Even as calls for Dr Tan to unite the opposition – like how ex-Barisan Nasional politician Dr Mahathir Mohamad did across the causeway – abound, Dr Tan said following the meeting with the opposition parties that he feels he “must help but in what capacity, I have not decided.”

The resolution, too, does not make any mention of Dr Tan.

There is some speculation that the signing of such a document is only a publicity stunt, since opposition parties do meet and work together to avoid three-cornered fights and such in past elections.

For example, in the last election, the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) and the DPP formed a partnership and contested Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC together, with three candidates from the SPP and two from the DPP.

Additionally, if the bigger opposition parties like the Workers’ Party and the Singapore Democratic Party does not sign the document, it is unclear what the value of such a resolution will ultimately be. It must be noted that the Workers’ Party was conspicuously absent from the 28 July meeting.

The SDP, which organised the 28 July meeting and proposed the resolution in the first place, has yet to sign the resolution although a spokesperson did say that “the process of the signing of the resolution (by parties) is ongoing”.

Mr Tan Jee Say – a former SDP member who branched off and began the Singaporeans First Party – said that his party’s leadership has not made a decision on signing the resolution. He told reporters: “I don’t see any issue (with) the resolution, but neither do I see any urgency to sign it. We have already indicated our commitment to opposition unity (by attending the meeting).”

Despite the lack of details in the resolution, the parties that have signed the document have said that making such a pledge is still “an important step”.

DPP leader Ben Pwee told reporters that signing the document “is an important step in getting the many small parties to publicly express their willingness to get behind one key leader as a coalition.”

He added: “Past efforts have been merely horse-trading, with no one party willing to subsume behind another, and everyone jostling to be treated as equals. Signing such a resolution with the expressed public possibility of being led by Tan Cheng Bock also shows the very first time everyone is willing to accept the leadership of one leader.”

Similarly, RP chairman Andy Zhu acknowledged that while “terms are not laid out” in the document, the signing of it symbolises the willingness of parties to discuss further collaboration.

He added that this signing signifies a solid development, as compared to previous collaboration talks that did not amount to anything.