Sunday, May 07, 2006

SINGAPORE ELECTIONS: SDP’S FUTURE

Here’s what the SDP contributed to GE2006: 2.2 points to the PAP’s vote share. If it had not contested at all, the PAP’s share would have been 64.4 percent, not 66.6. Voters have rejected the Singapore Democratic Party once again, but this is unlikely to be the end of the story. It is inevitable that the party will split, if not entirely disintegrate.

Really, the only surprise is that the SDP has cohered as long as it has. For several years, there’s been an irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of the SDP leadership. The old SDP, represented by chairman Ling How Doong and other stalwarts, wants to win Parliamentary seats and knows from experience that the way to do this is by painstakingly cultivating the grassroots (even if in practice they lack the energy or resources to do it). The new SDP, led by Chee Soon Juan, is less interested in electoral politics. It is instead engaging in a long term struggle to transform political culture in Singapore.

Although these two missions sound complementary in theory, that’s only the case if there’s a conscious effort to balance them. Chee has made no such effort. It’s easy to understand why. Having been roundly rebuffed by voters in past polls, and now disqualified from contesting, he knows that his personal future lies with getting the attention and approval of foreign pro-democracy groups. Since these groups deal routinely with far larger and more brutal regimes than Singapore, Chee can only sustain their interest in him if he remains in the news as a victim of PAP authoritarianism. His repeated attempts to provoke the authorities – inviting fines, suits and even jail terms – seem crazy in the eyes of many Singaporeans, but are entirely rational when one realises who his real audience is.

Whether or not you agree with his strategy, the point is that it is at odds with the interests of the rest of the Opposition, including most of his SDP colleagues. I suspect that Chee was only tolerated by the likes of Ling because he was willing to do the work. At best, it was a live and let live relationship. It was a relationship that always looked vulnerable to pressure – and that pressure was provided by the PAP’s lawsuit, which forced SDP leaders to decide where their interests really lay.

5 comments:

Recruit Ong said...

the PAP is a monolithic top down, tolerates no dissent from within, whip-touting, one-familee party.

SDP offers the electorate a choice. Since there were no 3-corner fights, SDP did not conflict upon the interests of the other 2 opposition parties. More choices are better than less. More contest is better than walkovers. More s'poreans get to taste the electoral process. Good or poor percentages for the oppositions mean nothing ultimately if number of seats won in parliament remains unchanged.

ching said...

i think it is amusing that recruit kk chose the stance which he apparently did.politics,to me and the majority of spore who subscribed eventually to PAP's regime,is not about the more the merrier.sure,it is a very noble-and arguable novel-idea for more to be able to taste the electoral process as a sure sign of 'democratic maturity' but this is hardly the case and a trenchantly expressed point.this is not a circus in which the more the merrier,if i may repeat.what good is there in having 5 football teams,each of mediocre performing ability,to represent spore in the world cup?does it have any actual net benefit for more sporeans to have more clubs to choose from in which they can devote their dedication and love?even so,will there be net benefit for the nation as a whole-5 mediocre teams with largely separated gems amongst them which all fail to help spore progress and make it to the finals?do we want to lose out internationally,economically and even if i may say,strategically,if we are more concerned with allowing 'more singaporeans getting to taste the electoral process' than for the country to really allow the one better team to take charge and bring spore forward?i think another analogy works here,as i view the idea that 'More contest is better than walkovers.' with much cynicism and contempt.is it better to have the choice to drink from a thousand streams of poisoned and polluted water-and get sick and die-than to drink from a limited supply of clean,potable water?what good is there for lousy,poisoned parties to be in contest if they do not bring net profit to the citizens in eventuality?surely the noble idea of 'democratic maturity' does not translate itself to encouraging all political parties-of various belief and ideologies-to be present at all elections,right?

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