Singapore— Zuraidah Ibrahim, the Deputy Executive Editor of the South China Morning Post (SCMP), one of the panelists at the annual conference of the Institute of Policy Studies on Monday (Jan 20), said that the opposition parties in Singapore are unlikely to form a coalition, and that its underdog status is actually beneficial.
She told an audience of around 1,120 leaders, academics, businesspersons and members of different civic groups, “In their own lives, there are enough Singaporeans who feel the system favours privileged elites. So it is not surprising they identify with candidates who seem to be victims of an overbearing government. The Opposition plays the underdog card, and the government seems to know this.”
Ms Zuraidah, the co-author of a 2016 book entitled Singapore Chronicles: Opposition, is also a former deputy editor of The Straits Times (ST).
She did say, however, that she is sure of three things concerning the current state of Singapore’s opposition, according to a report from mothership.sg. These are: that there will most likely be no united alliance or coalition of opposition parties, that being the underdog is beneficial to the opposition, and that Singaporean voters have accepted the fact that what the opposition sees is not an alternative government waiting for its turn, but an entity that provides a check to PAP.
She said, “The opposition is not a government-in-waiting, and not what the voters expect from them. Instead, they serve as a check on the ruling party.”
IPS’s conference, entitled Singapore’s Perspectives, centered around politics as well as answers to the question, “How will Singapore govern itself in 2032?”
Two of PAP’s top 4G leaders, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, spoke at the conference, and the panelists included Dr Lam Peng Er, a senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore and veteran diplomat Bilahari Kausikan, chairman of the Middle East Institute at NUS, along with Ms Zuraidah.
Ms Zuraidah emphasized that many things are still uncertain concerning the upcoming General Election. “Alas, as things stand, we are still trying to peer into a fog. We don’t have a date yet, we don’t have the shape of the electoral map, we don’t have a good idea of new faces, we don’t know what the domestic and international environment will be like.”
But she did express with certainty that some degree of opposition is welcomed by people, “Clearly the electorate wants some opposition, but either too much or too little makes the public nervous.”
The Straits Times (ST) reports that Ms Zuraidah evaluated several of the opposition parties during the panel discussion. Of the Workers’ Party (WP) Ms Zuraidah said that its exercise of a cautious approach “infuriates more impatient opposition supporters”.
Of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), she said that under the leadership of Dr Chee Soon Juan it has “consistently performed worse than the opposition average” but added that it is unclear if this is due to SDP’s platform, “style of politicking or a question of personality.”
Ms Zuraidah also called the emergence of Dr Tan Cheng Bock into the political arena as an opposition leader as “groundbreaking” and a “game-changer” and that it might possibly open doors for other “establishment types” to follow suit.
However, one thing that does not work in Dr Tan’s favour, she added, is that he may be relatively unknown to younger voters since time has passed since he served as a Member of Parliament, and they may only recall him from his candidacy for president in 2011. –/TISG
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