Singapore— In his new book, The First Wave: JBJ, Chiam and the Opposition in Singapore, political analyst Loke Hoe Yeong, said that a viable opposition coalition needs to include the party which already has seats in Parliament.
Mounting a challenge to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is no mean feat, and if the country’s opposition parties want to make it count in the upcoming General Election (GE), they must prevent forming a “coalition of losers.”
For a coalition to enjoy success, it needs to include the opposition party that has already succeeded in getting Members of Parliament elected—meaning the Workers’ Party (WP), which currently has six MPs sitting in Parliament. Additionally, the WP also has three non-constituency members of parliament or NCMPs.
Published by Epigram Books, The First Wave traces the development of Singapore’s opposition for thirty years and shows how the opposition has developed in the country’s recent history, and yet, did not attain a substantial victory until 2011 when the WP won several seats for the first time.
The timing of the book is particularly significant, as the next GE could be declared as early as later this year or early next year. There’s has been talk of a united opposition, especially with Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who is former PAP MP, and well-respected figure, and his party, Progress Singapore Party, joining the political arena.
At the launch of his book, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) quotes Mr Loke as saying, “If you see the current situation, Tan Cheng Bock has also tried to talk to other parties since last year, and we haven’t seen anything coming out of it, which seems to suggest they have not found a formula.”
Mr Loke traced the victories of J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong as opposition voices in Parliament.
It is not the first time that an attempt at building a coalition of opposition parties will have been made in Singapore’s history. Mr Chiam formed the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), but without the participation of the country’s larger and more popular opposition parties—Singapore Democratic Party, headed by Dr Chee Soon Juan, and the WP, headed by Low Thia Khiang, who had succeeded J.B. Jeyaretnam.
Without much support, the SDA was only able to win two seats in the elections of 2001 and 2006.
Mr Loke said, “The Singapore opposition parties involved in the coalition held no parliamentary seats … they were probably more keen to avoid three-cornered fights than anything else.”
The author and political analyst also said that opposition parties in Singapore need to strike the right balance.
They can’t be overly confrontational like JB Jeyaretnam had been. “If the opposition is too radical, too confrontational… it might lose middle-ground voters who are generally quite contented.”
But if they take a tone that is too moderate, PAP’s “technocratic superiority would beat them to it any day” in the matter of crafting policy.
Mr Like said, “I think therein lies the conundrum that the opposition is sort of in a hamster’s wheel.” /TISG
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