The State of Political Parties in Singapore in 2012

If there’s anything to sum it up for Singapore at this point, it’s this – there’s a lot at stake for Singapore and no one dares to make a move.

PAP doesn’t dare move because there are afraid of losing all they’ve built. They are afraid of losing their power. They are afraid that any move they make could also affect Singapore’s stability and our attractiveness to investors, and affect Singapore’s future.

The Worker’s Party (WP) is afraid to move. They’ve slowed down in envisioning themselves as a viable government because of the weight of their shoulders. You only have one election to make it right – it’s a make or break. If you don’t get it right, Singaporeans will vote PAP back in the next elections. For Singaporeans, they’ve learnt to feel comfortable in economic security and any upsetting of that, without complementary social or psychological balance, will make them go back into their comfort zone. So, the Worker’s Party will only form a government when they know they have enough people to take the lead for not only one, but two or more elections. This is why they would prefer to seemingly support PAP’s position for now, and argue for changes within, so as to maintain the stability of Singapore and continue to advocate for social changes. At the same time, the Worker’s Party is well aware that PAP is undoing themselves. They are hoping to silently build up their base and then wait for the right moment to strike.

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) thinks similarly to WP, in that they believe in supporting the existing structures, and yet advocating for social changes from within the government – to maintain stability. Yet, for now, there is a new team onboard and they need to build themselves up and establish themselves first before they can redefine themselves and take on a greater role. Meanwhile, at their renewed infancy, Singaporeans will tend to find them irrelevant, only because Singaporeans are yet not sure where NSP stand for, in representing Singaporeans.

For the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), they feel that they are ready to want to challenge the government. They have strategies and policies written out on their website. But SDP is too angry. There’s too much negative energy within, which the party is learning to purge slowly, with new members and new energy. And slowly, they are beginning to earn the trust of more and more Singaporeans. This is also because SDP represents the frustrations that Singaporeans have. They also have the right vigour within them to want for change in Singapore. But they need to be tempered, with patience. And it’s beginning to be seen within that they have the ability to do that.

I won’t talk about Reform Party and SDA because I am unclear of their direction as of now.

This is perhaps the lowest point for PAP in their entire political legacy, and it might possibly go down further. PAP has no soul nor mission. They’ve been bought over by money and capitalism that they’ve lost sight of what it means to govern. They’ve learnt to do very well as a capitalist corporation but that’s about it. And they sincerely believe they are now running a company. This is what has caused PAP to become irrelevant to the people. We no longer believe in them, because they’ve no longer believe in us – as the people. At this point, PAP will only continue to fall because even as they continue to purport what was said by the party’s founders, they no longer understand what it means or believe in it. What is meritocracy? What is ensuring we look our for the lower and middle income groups? To them, they know the words. But they do not know the meaning behind the principles of these words. They’ve lost their soul. They’ve lost their ability to be in touch with Singaporeans.

So, at this point the other parties – let’s not call them ‘opposition’ as this is a constructed term to sideline them, and render them as seemingly irrelevant – so at this point, the other parties have an advantage because they actually understand what Singaporeans want.

SDP understands precisely the frustrations that Singaporeans have towards feeling slighted by the government.

WP understands how the lower income groups and the Chinese-speaking Singaporeans feel about being neglected by the Singaporeans. The people in NSP are policy makers and planners. They understand strategically, and on the whole, what needs to done to improve Singapore socially, and at the same time, to maintain a balance.

So, you can see that the other parties have a much more refined and acute understanding of the needs and wants of Singaporeans and what can be done for Singaporeans, as a country and as a people. Yet, there currently lies a problem – they don’t seem to be talking to each other.

The other parties each have a unique advantage, that when we leverage on one another, can make this consolidated group a force to be reckoned with. Yet, all of them know that at this point, if they build up their base and influence, they can possibly have a chance at forming the next government by themselves as well – at the rate PAP is going. This is also why the parties are all playing their cards very close to their chests. Should they work with another party and take on the government together? Should they work by themselves and form the next government? There are still another 3 to 4 years before the next elections are held and they are not ready to make a commitment, whether to go it solo, or to go as a group. Many things can change in the next 3 to 4 years, especially in the current political climate. More and more Singaporeans might join the political parties in droves and each party might actually stand a very credible chance of forming the next government.

Is there a need for them to unite then? At this point, we don’t need an answer. But they would most probably need to think about it and if they decide to come together, it should be within the next one year, so that it gives them another two years to build up their image and rally Singaporeans together. However, if any one party is able to attract enough capable people to form a government, that might happen as well.

But if they do decide to form a party together, what are the advantages? As said, each of them have their natural advantages. WP has the experience and stability to run a government having more than 6 representatives in government now. They would nonetheless, be also training their members, using Aljunied and Hougang as a training ground. NSP has the experience in running the civil service and they have the strategic thinking abilities required to manage Singapore on a macro level. SDP is an interesting mix-bag, as it has people who are also planners and strategic thinkers, but their temperament is far heightened, as compared to the other parties. But this also mean that they would be able to bring in the energy required for the parties to have the grit and determination within them to take PAP together.

For now, there’s also a dormant not knowing among the parties of whether they are able to actually make it happen. But if anything, they are beginning to have a sense of hope. If anything, Singaporeans have started giving up on PAP to be able to represent them and to be able to make changes for them. The frustrations online are boiling over and it would only be a matter of time before people would take things in their own hands, and some of them would then join the other political parties.

One thing though needs to happen – we need a leader who has the charisma and attraction to be able to rally everyone together and present the hope that people can put their belief in. When Singapore first gained our independence, Lee Kuan Yew might have presented this. Whether or not we agree with his antics and how he has developed in recent years, he had presented that ‘hope’ and the older generation continue to buy into and thank him for the stable and prosperous Singapore that we are able to grow in today.

So yes, at this point, we do need another person who is able to infuse that hope and belief in Singaporeans, to let us have the courage and spirit to believe in where the other parties can take us into the future. Now, the different parties have to find a way, if they decide to come together, to create a branding around themselves, an image of strength and unity and dynamism that Singaporeans can see and believe in, to take them forward in Singapore’s next era.

To be sure, governance as we know it will change. No longer will any party have dominant hold over government and the people. Rights will have to be given back to the people and it will be a new era of shared power, between the government and the people, and where decisions will no longer be made unilaterally by the government but more and more so, by concensus. This is a challenge that the new government has to maneuver within, but also presents a new era of possibilities that Singapore and Singaporeans can go towards.

Of course, the best case scenario is where PAP decides to change its course, to start soul searching within themselves and to realise within themselves how they’ve lost Singaporeans and how they need to regain our trust, not just by words, but by actually changing, taking down and putting up policies which actually reflect the true aspirations of Singapore. They are currently showing resistance towards doing that. Whether they are able to take a bold shift towards doing what needs to be done is all up to them. They have the next one year to do it, which otherwise will give the other parties a very good stead to form the next government in 2016. Of course, if they make the right moves, even if incremental, they might be able to postpone their demise for another election, whilst making use of Singaporeans for another 5 years thereafter. So, it all depends on whether Singaporeans will buy into what PAP will offer in the next 1 to 3 years and how fast the other parties move to remodel themselves and become more influential.

It also depends on how aware Singaporeans will choose to be and how they are willing to go outside their comfort zone, and see the possibilities that the other parties can, to offer a better future for Singapore.

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