Proposed opposition alliance hoping Tan Cheng Bock's Progress Singapore Party will split PAP vote in election

Singaporeans First secretary-general Tan Jee Say (left, in blue) and People’s Power Party secretary-general Goh Meng Seng (centre, in pink) give out oranges during the proposed alliance’s first outreach activity in Ang Mo Kio on Jan 19, 2020. ST PHOTO: FABIAN KOH

SINGAPORE - The proposed opposition group, which has yet to register its alliance, is hoping Dr Tan Cheng Bock's Progress Singapore Party (PSP) will split the People's Action Party vote in the next election which is due by April 2021.

Speaking to the media on Sunday (Jan 19), Mr Tan Jee Say, who leads the Singaporeans First party (SingFirst), described Dr Tan's role as "just like (how) Mahathir split the Malay vote in Malaysia".

In the 2018 general election in Malaysia, Malay voters were split three ways between the Umno-led Barisan Nasional, Parti Islam SeMalaysia and the Pakatan Harapan coalition led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mr Tan said: "We hope that Dr Tan will not split the opposition vote, and will just split the PAP vote, because... that is his value-add (for the opposition).

"The opposition vote is already there, 30 to 40 per cent, with or without Dr Tan and PSP."

The Straits Times broke the news earlier this month that SingFirst, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), People's Power Party (PPP) and Reform Party (RP) were planning to form a four-party alliance, reducing the crowded field of 11 opposition parties to eight.

Mr Tan said the group has yet to register the alliance.

"We are just watching and getting feedback in response to the news... There has been a mixed reaction so far," he added. Meanwhile, he said they are still talking to other parties.

The PSP, for its part, is preferring to keep its options open, but Dr Tan had said a "loose association" with other parties remains.

His comments, made at the party's New Year's dinner held last Friday, comes in the wake of disparaging remarks made about the opposition alliance by his personal secretary Alex Tan.

Mr Alex Tan had described the leaders of the alliance as captains of "sinking boats" who were just "clasping one another's hands to save themselves from drowning".

Leader of the PPP Goh Meng Seng said this "loose association" has been present over the past elections during horse-trading talks.

But he stressed that the opposition parties need to have a common policy platform, in order to have "even a slight chance of having a good showing".

"In 2011, we were very successful because the Housing Board asset enhancement (policy) became the key issue, and every party was saying the same thing and attacking the same policy," he added.

Discontent over high house prices was seen as a key factor in the PAP's loss of votes that year, which at 39.9 per cent, was the highest vote share in post-independence elections for the opposition.

Mr Goh said that in the 2015 general election, the opposition parties did not have a common platform.

"Everyone was saying different things. One was about foreign talent policy, about HDB, about high cost of living. When you do not sing together and say the same thing, it will not amplify," he added.

In the 2015 general election, the opposition's share of votes slipped to 30.1 per cent.

On Sunday morning, Mr Goh, Mr Tan Jee Say and 13 other members of the four parties in the group were at AMK Hub handing out oranges to residents.

The group has not indicated which wards it plans to contest at the next general election.

But RP, led by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, had previously announced its intentions to stand in three constituencies including Ang Mo Kio GRC.

In the 2015 general election, an RP team lost to the PAP team, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. RP garnered 21.4 per cent of the valid votes.

Mr Tan said that Ang Mo Kio is being targeted, as it has the "problems of an ageing estate", which he described as the "decay of Housing Board leases".

Apart from Ang Mo Kio GRC, RP has also indicated it will be looking to contest the single-seat Radin Mas constituency as well as West Coast GRC.

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