Unity makes for stronger, more effective opposition

I agree with Mr Kwan Jin Yao that the opposition parties need to get their own houses in order before they can mount any serious challenge to the ruling party in future elections ("Opposition parties must take long-term view"; Feb 12).

On the one hand, the People's Action Party (PAP) has established itself well over its five decades in power. Besides its enviable track record, it has assembled a corps of candidates who possess experience and expertise - traits that have won over many Singaporean voters.

Crucially, the PAP has constantly evolved its political platform in response to changing needs in changing times. Such adaptability is, perhaps, the most important ingredient in its enduring appeal.

These attributes make the PAP a formidable political force, difficult to overcome on the campaign trail and at the ballot box.

On the other hand, the opposition's electoral successes thus far have been limited to the Workers' Party wards and, previously, Mr Chiam See Tong's Potong Pasir.

While the opposition has fielded an increasing number of high-quality candidates in recent years, the slate as a whole cannot quite match the pedigree of the ruling party.

Much of this weakness can be attributed to the fragmented nature of the opposition.

First, having a multitude of small parties with multiple manifestos sends a somewhat muddled message to the electorate - I suspect that the average voter cannot readily distinguish between the proposals of the various opposition parties.

This scattershot of rhetoric might be drowned out by the PAP's singular, resonant platform.

Second, promising political newcomers might be dispersed among multiple opposition political parties, as opposed to being fielded as a single, strong line-up that would stand a better chance at the polls.

Third, the opposition's grassroots presence between elections leaves much to be desired.

Fourth, smaller parties simply lack the means to mount large-scale campaigns.

A consolidated opposition front would enable much clearer articulation of policy proposals and rebuttals, as well as shared resources to augment presence on the ground.

It would also create a centralised pool of candidates that would not only be strong, but also more effective at attracting and amassing fresh talent.

To improve their electoral performance and to better represent the electorate, the opposition parties should consider joining forces by coalition or merger.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi