Opposition blah blah…but where is the VOTER?

Reading this article [http://www.todayonline.com/Singapore/EDC110307-0000163/Deep-fissures-behind-Opposition-bravado] is interesting. It attempts an analysis of the opposition parties. But it might be flawed. Even for a law professor.

 

 

At a time when the parties should be resolutely covering the ground in the areas they are contesting, they are still undecided as to who would carry the flag for the non-PAP camp in 11 out of 27 electoral wards.

Any seat with more than one Opposition contestant is a sure recipe for splitting the non-PAP vote bank and, subsequently, defeat. Yet, some parties seem to be holding out for as long as they can for the turf they are eyeing.

 

An explanation which most people could reasonably accept. Granted the author might be analysing from the opposition’s perspective, but it’s disappointing he didn’t even raise a point on the voter’s interest. What’s the impact on voters? Good or ill? And their reactions to these potential three-cornered fights?

 

 

In part, the disarray reflects the fact that more parties are likely to contest this GE than in 2006. Quite a few parties are either very new or very small, or non-existent between elections. They lack resources to mount an effective campaign but they want to contest. The other part of the matter is, even as the electoral battle against the ruling party looms, egos, ambition and boardroom politics are getting in the way of any concerted strategy.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because there are more worms on the other side! Again, the article missed an important point on why ‘very new or very small’ opposition parties have come out to contest the elections. There must be a reason. Sadly, the author did not try to explain, even briefly.

 

Certainly, raising the stakes for Opposition contestants is the fact that the next Parliament will have to up to nine Non-Constituency MP seats for the best-performing Opposition losers. So it is no surprise that of the 12 SMCs – seen as easier routes to the NCMP seats, with the ruling party less likely to field a ministerial heavyweight there – the parties have reached agreement on only Potong Pasir and Hougang, both now Opposition-held, and two other SMCs.

The implication is that an opposition candidate factors in a NCMP seat for his consideration in where he chooses to contest. Perhaps. But unlikely, because from electoral trends, the NCMPs have consistently come from GRCs, where the margin of victory by the PAP was narrow. In contrast, in Potong Pasir and Hougang, the opposition MPs have won convincingly elections after elections, due to their hard work and personal popularity. Single-seat wards attract more contests, because they are easier for opposition candidates to become FULLY-elected MPs, rather than GRCs, because of their sheer size and homogenizing effects which are difficult (but not impossible) for opposition parties to overcome.

 

Instead of spewing nonsense here on FB, for my first and probably last time I thought of responding to the article, and I was surprised when Today published it, albeit edited [http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC110309-0000152/Three-way-fights-good-for-voters].

 

I REFER to the commentary “Deep fissures behind Opposition bravado”, (March 7). Assistant Professor Eugene Tan argued that three-cornered fights in some constituencies reflect fragmentation among the Opposition parties. He believes only the People’s Action Party would benefit from such fights.

However, the voter’s interest is not mentioned. In a ward contested by three or four parties, the voter has a wider range of choices such that he can cast his ballot for the party (and its ideology) he most prefers. A straight duel between two parties denies him this wider choice.

Also the voter’s interest in an election can only increase where there is greater political competition, and three- or four-cornered fights should not be discouraged purely for misconceived notions of “Opposition unity”.

Asst Prof Tan also noted that “very new or very small” parties contribute to the current state of Opposition disunity. Perhaps one reason for their emergence from nowhere is opportunism, and if it were true, that could mean they think sufficient Singaporeans are discontented with the Government and are eager to capitalise on it.

Lastly, Asst Prof Tan suggested that Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs) are “easier routes to the NCMP seats”.

History shows, however, that only one NCMP (Mr Steve Chia in 2001) had fought in a SMC, while the others, like Ms Sylvia Lim in 2006, had battled in GRCs anchored by ministers. So, it is more accurate to say that SMCs are an easier route for Opposition candidates to become fully-elected MPs, thus attracting three-cornered fights.

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