Parties shouldn't hold back in the name of cooperation

Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang speaking to a shopper at Rivervale Plaza during a walkabout on July 26.
Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang speaking to a shopper at Rivervale Plaza during a walkabout on July 26.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

With election fever upon us, some may expect opposition parties to cooperate in carving out areas to contest in ("Opposition politicians weigh their options"; last Saturday).

But younger or weaker parties should not expect established ones to cede areas to them. Neither should parties, new or otherwise, hold back from contesting where others have been active.

At this stage of Singapore's political development, it is not in the interest of voters for parties to give way to others.

Parties should decide where to run based on their own calculations. These may well include considering where others may contest and avoiding multi-way fights if they think this will hurt themselves. But parties should not give way simply in the name of cooperation.

In the past, cooperation was touted as necessary on the basis that multi-party contests would split votes because voters did not clearly distinguish between opposition parties.

Such arguments are no longer valid, if they ever were.

Voting patterns in the 2011 General Election and the 2013 Punggol East by-election showed that Singapore voters are politically-savvy and can differentiate between parties and vote for their preferred candidates, whether from the ruling party or the opposition.

Instead of hoping for other parties to accommodate them, political parties keen to represent the people in Parliament should select quality candidates and then put in the years of hard work, commitment and consistency necessary to grow, establish and distinguish their parties, to prove that they are worth voting for.

Tan Soon Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2015, with the headline 'Parties shouldn't hold back in the name of cooperation'. Print Edition | Subscribe