The by-election of Punggol East is to be held on 26th January 2013. Even before the date of the by-election was announced, there was already a flurry of voices from the opposition parties proclaiming their interest.
Hence, when Chee Soon Juan announced his Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) desire to join the by-election, my reaction was one of “Why not?” Not surprisingly, not many shared my sentiments as there was a barrage of criticism online against Chee Soon Juan for making it a multi-cornered fight.
I was amused. Why were all these opposition supporters so sure that SDP joining in the fray would dilute Workers’ Party’s (WP) votes? Don’t they have faith in WP? If WP can’t win People’s Action Party (PAP) in a multi-cornered fight, supporters need to seriously consider whether WP would ever be able to take over PAP as the government.
I believe that the reason behind the insecurity is due to the different types of opposition voters in Singapore. I have identified 3 main types of opposition voters below:
1) Anti-PAP Supporters
These are the type of people you can’t have a decent and reasonable conversation with. They complain about everything and believe that everything bad that is happening to them must be the government’s fault. They do not acknowledge anything good about the government. If you say anything remotely good about the government, they will swear and curse at you and deem you a dog of the PAP.
And if the government seems to be doing something right, it’s a conspiracy. If the opposition did something wrong, it’s a conspiracy of the government too. To them, the government is omnipresent, omniscient and omni-powerful because the government is behind everything bad.
It doesn’t matter to them who is the opposition – a monkey can be placed against PAP and they would still vote for the monkey. Essentially, they don’t think critically and would vote for any opposition.
These are the people that are likely to be against a multi-cornered fight as they believe that the opposition votes will be diluted. They want the opposition to win at all costs.
2) Pro-Opposition Supporters
These are the people that believe that PAP has been given way too much power and that there should be more opposition in the government so that there will be checks and balances in place. They want more democracy.
They acknowledge that PAP isn’t all that bad but believe that the government can do better with more diverse voices in the Parliament. Some may acknowledge that the opposition isn’t as strong as PAP but they believe in giving them a chance. Some may believe that the party that would be voted in anyway will definitely be PAP and choose to vote for the opposition so that PAP would not get too strong a mandate.
These are the people that are likely to be neutral or supportive towards a multi-cornered fight as they believe that true democracy means that any party can choose to contest if they want to.
3) Genuine Supporters of an Opposition Party
They are probably the rarest of all the opposition supporters. They do not see opposition parties as monolithic but as individual different parties. They sincerely believe that the opposition party they support is the best for Singapore. They truly believe in the policies and the actions of the opposition party they are voting for.
These are the people that are likely to be against or neutral towards a multi-cornered fight. They might be against because they know that their chances of winning would be lowered and yet neutral because they believe that people would rationally vote for the best party which is the party they believe in.
If you are an opposition voter, which type do you belong to?
I think it’s obvious that I do not belong any of the three types above because I voted for PAP. I remember an anti-PAP acquaintance asking me what did PAP do to win my vote. I replied that the better question should be did the opposition party do anything to win my vote. He had no answer for me.
And that brings me to the biggest problem of the opposition parties – they rely on the first and second type of voters too much. This is especially noticeable when all they do is to criticize PAP. Bashing PAP does not make you the better party. There are no constructive ideas or solutions of what should be done instead. Seriously, if I need an MP to criticize PAP, I might as well vote in any grouchy coffee shop uncle. Anyone can criticize the government, but can anyone do better than the government?
What opposition parties should do instead of just praying that PAP makes a wrong move so that they can criticize them all the time is to build up their own brand and image to attract genuine supporters. There are many things they can do before the next election. They can come up with alternative and better policies and ideas and publish it on their blogs so that people would know the causes they are championing. They can do charity work to help the poor that they insist that PAP is ignoring. I have yet to see any opposition party donating money. All they do is to ask for more donations. (The hypocrisy!) Don’t just do something to be heard, seen and known, do something to be respected.
Of course, if the opposition is happy with just 40% of the votes, they can happily continue on their tirade. If any opposition party ever intend to become the government of Singapore, they would need to gain the third type of voters – genuine supporters. They would need to win the 60% over and not just pray that by some divine intervention PAP would make all the wrong moves and push the 60% over.
I would only vote for an opposition party when I do become a genuine supporter of the opposition party.
Why? Because I love Singapore and I want the best party for Singapore.