Several three cornered fights are set to happen in the next general election. Residents of Potong Pasir SMC will see a three cornered fight with independent candidate Tan Lam Siong entering the fray against SPP’s Lina Chiam and the incumbent Sitoh Yih Pin from PAP. Marine Parade GRC and Macpherson SMC are both going to be three way fights between the PAP, NSP and WP. Some three corner fights were averted following compromises between the parties involved, such as in Sembawang GRC where the SDP stepped aside for the NSP to contest, as well as in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC where . Commentators have mixed opinions on how votes will be split, and ultimately whether voters will benefit more from a wider choice or a compromise.
Yet, discussions centering around whether parties should compromise and make way for head-to-head contests between the PAP and other parties seem to allude to the idea of a binary choice – that you either choose either PAP or opposition.
Two top reasons on why this is a problem:
First and perhaps most importantly, not all opposition parties believe the same thing. For instance, the approach of Lina Chiam in parliamentary debates has certainly been more consultative rather than driving. A quick read of her parliamentary speeches reveals that she is focused more on proposing refinements and highlighting concerns with bills rather than pushing her own agenda. The SPP website appears also to have a focus on party activities and comments in parliament rather than having a repertoire of alternative policies. It also firmly believes in the notion of a united opposition rather than a fractious one. On the other hand, her electoral opponent Tan Lam Siong appears to be more vocal in pushing alternative policies in education, employment, and transport as revealed by his frequent blog posts often themed by policy area. The voters in Potong Pasir SMC would definitely have to come to a decision beyond just the PAP vs Opposition paradigm in thinking more about their elected representative’s approach.
Next, the PAP vs Opposition mentality is highly adversarial. This point to me is bordering on personal. I have an issue with people who support for the sake of supporting, and oppose for the sake of opposing. This adversarial mentality regresses our political choice to one which ignores the need to search for the best candidate to serve our needs and represent our views. Instead, our choice simply becomes a partisan one, voting along party lines. A post-election survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies in 2011 revealed that the proportion of swing voters who were on the fence about one-party dominance was 45.4%. This means that the remaining 54.6% of people had pretty much already made up their mind about who they wanted to vote for regardless of who was running. Our figures may seem pretty great as compared to the US, which has approximately only a quarter of registered voters who are not affiliated with any political party.
However, it’d be great if we thought a little deeper about who we want to put in charge beyond just looking at PAP vs Opposition.