Opposition parties must take long-term view

Supporters from the People's Action Party (in white) and the Workers' Party (in blue) on Nomination Day, Sept 1, 2015.
Supporters from the People's Action Party (in white) and the Workers' Party (in blue) on Nomination Day, Sept 1, 2015. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

The question of whether a nine-day election campaign is adequate was raised again at a recent discussion on opinion polls and sentiment towards the Government ("PAP won GE2015 before campaign began: Polling firm"; last Friday).

During the discussion, market research company Blackbox Research argued that campaign performance was not the key factor for the People's Action Party's win in last September's election - the party had already won back its core constituents through policy changes in 2014 and last year.

In particular, the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew changed perceptions, created a stronger narrative for younger people and, ultimately, boosted support for the PAP, as Singaporeans thanked Mr Lee at the ballot box.

But what next for the other political parties?

Beyond extending the campaigning period, these parties need to take a longer-term view, planning endeavours in advance of the next election.

They could focus on socio-economic issues, such as the cost of living and managing the inflow of immigrants. These policy-driven efforts, premised upon an understanding of ground sentiments, perhaps through polling, could be useful.

The notion of opposition unity could also be significant.

Seven in 10 of the respondents to Blackbox's poll said the opposition parties needed to work more closely together if they were to challenge the PAP.

Respondents were also split when asked about interest in a multi-party political system or a Western-style democracy with a strong opposition.

The implication, therefore, is for groundwork and collaborations - if any - to take root early, so as to gather momentum to challenge the status quo.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'Opposition parties must take long-term view'. Print Edition | Subscribe