Media attention has now been focused on four ex-National Solidarity Party (NSP) members attempting to join the Singapore People’s Party (SPP).
The past few elections have seen opposition parties grouping together in what they call “opposition unity”. Their theory is this: because various political parties are all against the People’s Action Party (PAP), it is hence wise to group together and call the coalition the “opposition”.
Coalitions are not uncommon. Germany is a case-in-point of a functioning coalition, the success of which can be seen in Chancellor Merkel leading Germany to its de-facto position as “leader of the EU”. Few can argue that Germany has not indeed progressed from post-World War II to their dominant position in European politics today.
However, Germany is a minority. Tensions are often very common among coalition partners, be it in government or in opposition. The British system is an example of a coalition that often starts out promising, but party politics soon relegate the coalition into a “battle of margins”. Strong party positions ultimately obfuscate the direction and nuances of governmental policy.
If we return to Singapore’s context of “opposition unity”, what does it really mean? Some of their views of coaliation is disturbing. Take for example remark by Dr. Chee to ChannelNewsasia.
“Dr Chee explained that if the opposition wins the by-election, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) gets to enter Parliament and The Workers’ Party will run the Punggol East Town Council.
Dr Chee said that the SDP Member of Parliament will chair the town council, but will leave the day-to-day running of the town council to the Workers’ Party (WP).”
No sane mind would agree to such an unequal partnership, certainly not the Worker’s Party.
Post-GE, saw a number of movements among opposition parties, as well as other activists.
The new Singfirst Party was founded by two ex-SDP members. Then 2011 star Benjamin Pwee left the SPP, and later on, took on the role of acting Secretary-General of the Democratic Progressive Party. The recent National Solidarity Party’s Central Executive Committee shuffle and the supposed claim of 4 ex-NSP members wanting to join the SPP is the latest of opposition shuffle.
With the glut of opposition parties, one thing is sure: if opposition wants to grow, they need to find ways to seek common ground amongst competing (sometimes conflicting) political ideologies.
Movement of party members see some cross pollination of ideas within their parties. There might be conflict, there might be attempts to strong-arm ideas into the receiving party. But I we move beyond political activism (fighting for causes) and more into that of a fighting for governance.
But not all parties are up for this coalition dance.
Look at the difference in scale of support and candidates that the Workers Party receives as compared to the other opposition parties. What does the WP have to gain out of “opposition unity”?
Theirs is a simple political strategy: win constituencies through as little promises, ideologies and drama as possible.
Whether the WP is actually keen on accommodating other political parties is a contentious question in itself; its positions on many issues are not in common with other parties such as the SDP, NSP and so on. In all news of published proposed coalitions or actual ones, the WP has not been featured.
I don’t see a problem with the advancement of one’s political agenda and certainly nothing wrong with the choice of the usage of the appropriate political vehicle to advance said causes.
Such actions, however, should prompt one to look beyond political slogans such as “opposition unity” and ask: exactly what is it these parties are united on? Some members clearly have differences in ideology within various opposition parties, prompting their moves to more aligned political vehicles.
As it stands today, the only commonality during the elections is the opponent: the ruling party.