NSP during an outreach event

NSP doing damage to its own reputation

NSP during an outreach event
NSP during an outreach event

By Sofian Razali

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has announced its intention to contest in the upcoming elections in MacPherson SMC, in what looks to be a three-way fight against the Workers’ Party (WP) and the People’s Action Party (PAP). One may feel that MacPherson residents should welcome this move as it provides them with an added choice to select someone they deem most suitable in running their estate and to speak on national issues.

However, the talk in town is about NSP’s “attack” on WP. NSP’s position appears to be that WP should “give up” MacPherson SMC in return for NSP not competing in Marine Parade GRC, where NSP previously contested in 2011, but lost.  NSP says it is keen to compete in MacPherson SMC as it is an area where “considerable outreach has been done prior to the 2011 General Elections”. The party also claims to have received positive pledges of support from residents (see their statement here).

Is WP behaving like a bully? From my perspective, no. This is because:

  • WP has gained a foothold in Aljunied. It makes sense for them to continue the momentum, applying a strategy of “geographical domination” within the East.
  • It makes for manageable and efficient running of the town council if they were to win the GRCs/SMCs contested in the East.
  • They have been actively recruiting new candidates in the past four years and have been able to attract high-calibre individuals.
  • In Parliament, WP MPs have consistently brought up issues of national importance. However, their disproportionate number vis-à-vis the number of PAP MPs means most of the policies debated are passed despite objections raised.
  • Apart from the AHPETC controversy, they are well established in the arena.
  • WP has, from the start, made clear the GRCs/SMCs they will be contesting in and the party is standing by what it has declared.

Singaporeans are generally conservative. They do not vote for the opposition just for the sake of it. They look at a candidate’s background, charisma, how well they connect with the people on the ground, and what are the issues these candidates intend to bring up in Parliament.

NSP’s reputation, meanwhile, is suffering.

They have had eight resignations of Secretary-Generals over the years, with Hazel Poa being the latest. Steve Chia was implicated in a scandal involving his domestic worker in 2003. The party seems to have issues in succession planning, and the new candidates they have attracted do not live up to the expectations of many.

Here are my thoughts on NSP:

  • NSP will be contesting in Tampines and Sembawang GRCs and Pioneer SMC, with a total of 11 candidates. For a party that’s pretty “shaky”, I feel they should focus their time and energy on how to win these three electorates instead of throwing tantrums for one more seat from WP.
  • Geographically, it does not make sense for NSP to contest in MacPherson. They are spread too far out from the other GRCs/SMC in which they are contesting. It is highly unlikely they can harmonize their town council systems (if they win all).
  • If NSP was so adamant to contest in MacPherson, they should have retained Hazel Poa and made her contest there. However, she has since left the party due to this reversal.
  • Now that Hazel Poa has left, NSP will have a hard time finding someone as genuine as her. She was one of NSP’s bright sparks after Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss left the party.  Perhaps SPP should recruit her to contest in Bishan-Toa Payoh.
  • Instead of opposition unity, NSP seems to have faltered with their self-interests.

I hope that the NSP will throw in the towel with regards to MacPherson SMC. Be gracious and let the best party contest. I want NSP to be able to win the rest of the GRCs/SMC without all these distractions. For now, it looks like the winners from this debacle may well be Tin Pei Ling and her PAP supporters.