Singapore opposition take lessons from Malaysian election result, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Singapore opposition take lessons from Malaysian election result

This article is more than 12 months old

Parties discussing new coalition say Dr M's shock win was 'important catalyst'

Last Saturday's gathering to discuss a new opposition coalition led by former People's Action Party (PAP) MP Tan Cheng Bock was a few years in the making.

Efforts to establish some kind of alliance had been ongoing for some time without success, but the opposition coalition's victory in the Malaysian election in May was a vital turning point, said local opposition leaders.

Said People's Power Party (PPP) secretary-general Goh Meng Seng: "(The Malaysian election) was an important catalyst. It opened our minds to the possibilities of coalition politics. We also saw the need for a steady hand leading the coalition - someone voters can trust as prime minister."

Since the 2015 general election, the parties have engaged in sporadic talks on an alliance. One discussion involving four parties - the PPP, National Solidarity Party (NSP), the Reform Party (RP) and the Singaporeans First Party (SFP) - spanned two years but broke down late last year over whether to merge.

Dr Tan had also been meeting several opposition parties bilaterally to discuss collaboration since early 2016 - but these were inconclusive, The Straits Times understands.

Then, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad led the Pakatan Harapan coalition to a shock win in May.

Within two months, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) invited Pakatan Harapan politician Tian Chua to speak to Singapore opposition parties about how coalition politics succeeded in Malaysia.

The seven parties considering a coalition are: the NSP, PPP, SDP, SFP, RP, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and a party awaiting official registration, the People's Voice Party. An eighth party, the Singapore Democratic Alliance, was not at the Saturday meeting but its chairman Desmond Lim said it too supports Dr Tan as leader.

Two notable parties stayed away: the largest opposition party here - the Workers' Party; and the Singapore People's Party, led by opposition veteran Chiam See Tong.

A few leaders told ST what was said, on condition of anonymity.

Dr Chee proposed that Dr Tan helm the coalition, on account of his experience. There was no objection, nor was there an alternative candidate. Many at the meeting said that they saw this as unanimous support.

But RP chairman Andy Zhu said it was "not confirmed" that Dr Tan would lead. "It was nothing concrete, just a proposal."

At the meeting, the SDP also proposed what many party leaders said was a "broadly worded" joint resolution by opposition parties to set aside differences and come together. Party leaders expect the resolution to be signed within weeks, and a second meeting in around two months' time that could formally recognise Dr Tan as leader of the proposed coalition.

Singapore Politics