The unwholesome display of opposition disunity in the Punggol East by-election, if it is held, does not augur well for opposition politics. The ground has been working well for the opposition, if it
is united, to decimate the PAP not only in Punggol East by election but also in GE 2016. The unfortunate emergence of four opposition parties to want to contest the possible Punggol East by-election throws pro-opposition voters' confidence to the winds.
The latest to declare its intention to contest the by-election is the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). The others are the Workers' party (WP), the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Reform Party (RP). The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has shown remarkable spirit of opposition unity in declaring its intention not to contest. If the SDP, SDA and RP could follow the selfless example of NSP and withdraw their intention to contest, it will be a good omen and a great day for opposition unity. WP is the natural choice to contest the by-election by virtue of the fact that it contested in the Punggol East SMC in GE 2011 as the main opposition party. Desmond Lim who contested in the ward as a SDA candidate was just a spoiler. In any case, he only managed to secure 4.5 per cent of the votes cast and lost his deposit.
Dr Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of SDP, tried glibly to explain, when asked if SDP's move would dilute the opposition vote, that it was targeting citizens who normally vote for the PAP but have since "lost their trust in it". "Our target is to win over from the people who are fed up", he added. Dr Chee cannot be so naive as to believe that people who are fed up with the PAP would cast their votes for the SDP and not the other opposition parties also contesting. If anything, by virtue of its standing in GE 2011, WP is likely to be the party to attract these disaffected PAP votes. By no stretch of imagination can SDP claim to be more attractive than the WP to the pro-opposition voters.WP already has eight MPs (six elected) in Parliament.
Punggol East by-election is the touchstone of the waning influence of the PAP in Singapore politics and is likely to be the precursor of the decimation of the PAP's apparently impregnable position in Parliament and in the government in GE 2016. Of course, the ultimate aim of the opposition is the dislodgement of the PAP Government but that may be beyond realisation in GE 2016. So it is of utmost importance for the opposition parties to close ranks and show unassailable unity in denying victory to the PAP in the Punggol East by-election so that it cannot claim that opposition unity is a myth. Also a PAP victory will show the opposition's and discerning Singaporeans' claim that the PAP Government has lost the people's confidence because of its undemocratic policies, especially on immigration, foreign workers and foreign talents, is without foundation.
And how can this be achieved with four opposition parties vying each other for the Punggol East ward. As has been mentioned, WP is the natural choice for the contest and the other three opposition parties (the SDP, SDA and RP) should transcend self-interest and show expemplary unity in the public interest, especially voters who want to see a complete absence of political arrogance of PAP leaders. On the other hand, Singaporeans will view with abhorence any intransigence in the stand of opposition parties towards opposition unity. In view of the apparent reluctance of PM Lee Hsien Loong to call a by-election in Punggol East, it will be some time before we will be able to see a by-election there. There is plenty of time for the opposition parties to carry out an introspection of their erroneous stand, As one commentator puts it:"a six-cornered fight will only hand Punggol East to the PAP on a silver platter".
Remember the authoritative saying : Unity is strength.