The recent news of National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) secretary general Hazel Poa resignation, together with her downcast facial expression, came to my sight as I flipped through my newspapers. It was a smart move by the mainstream media to use the situation to the People’s Action Party’s advantage.
Moving the focus past that, I was more curious about what initially made NSP gave up both areas when they could have fought for at least one, even if it meant a three-cornered fight.
And if NSP had taken up the initial offer by Workers’ Party (WP), it would not have even led to the sudden resignation by Ms Poa. However, I can empathize that it was most likely because NSP did not want to give up Marine Parade GRC which they had fought for in 2011 (with a close margin of 43%). WP could also have chosen to not contest in Marine Parade since they know it was NSP’s “territory”.
The outcome of this entangled mess was 1) Ms Poa’s resignation as she “strongly disagreed” with NSP’s decision to contest in MacPherson SMC and 2) NSP’s return to MacPherson SMC due to what they claim was support and appeal by the residents from the constituency. This would mean a three-party fight, which could result in the increase of PAP’s chance of winning.
To give a fair picture, WP did contest in Joo Chiat SMC in 2011 which they nearly won (49%), and the area has now been absorbed into Marine Parade. This was their stated reason for wanting to contest in Marine Parade GRC this year. Still, since NSP contested in Marine Parade in 2011 and WP is already contesting in so many other wards, why not give way to other parties who gave way to you before?
What does all this show? WP may feel they can easily win Marine Parade GRC this year since NSP was on the verge of winning in 2011. “Since we are the most established opposition party and have prominent supporters, the smaller parties will most likely give way to us.” To give some insight, NSP had also similarly given up Moulmein-Kallang GRC to WP in 2011.
In a sense, WP was very smart when it stuck to their plans and played the waiting game, letting the action and drama play out in NSP, which affects only NSP’s image. Lesson 1: The one who strategise in the long-term, instead of making quick decisions rashly, only stands to win. Lesson 2: More power = more control over the playing field = less prominent parties will give way to us. Does this mean more parties will have to give way to WP in the future?
Another reason for the three-cornered fight in MacPherson SMC could also be the opposition parties thinking they can win MacPherson because of Ms Tin Pei Ling’s presence. Yes, Ms Tin Pei Ling may have faced negative backlash 4 years back, but it seems her image has matured, and she has become more level-headed.
Furthermore, she had just given birth during the pre-election period – which could be an X-factor to draw in more voters, since she is a new mother; and is active even during this post-partum period, usually set aside as a resting period for a mother’s recovery.
“We have five years. If after five years, Tin Pei Ling remains what she is, then of course, she would still be a factor at the next election. But at this stage, looking at her action, in three years time, she would be a different Tin Pei Ling.” It seems like what Mr Goh Chok Tong said in 2011 did come true, and Ms Tin Pei Ling did persevere to stay on in the political scene. Let’s see if her effort will pay off and if she can prove her worth in September.
And lastly, the burning question: Is there opposition unity in Singapore? No doubt, we saw separate parties contesting when they could have a higher chance of winning by combining forces. However, the opposition parties’ meeting and the fact that most parties gave way to each other to prevent three-cornered fights do show the mutual respect and amity they have for each other.
This article is an edited version of what was first published on Offbeat Perspectives.