Category: Current Affairs
Published on Monday, 24 August 2015 14:19
Written by Andrew Loh
If you have not been following the tussle between the two opposition parties – the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and the Workers’ Party (WP) – here is a little bit about it, in a nutshell.
In Singapore, before each election the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee – EBRC – will review the boundaries of the constituencies and rework them, if necessary, taking into account demographic changes and so on.
This year in July, after some two months of work, the EBRC made some changes to the boundaries of some constituencies and removed altogether other constituencies from the map.
Macpherson single-member constituency (SMC) was extracted out of Marine Parade GRC to form its own electoral constituency.
In return – for reasons unknown – the single seat of Joo Chiat SMC was absorbed into Marine Parade GRC.
So, what has this got to do with the NSP and WP wrangling over who should contest in Macpherson and Marine Parade?
In 2011, the NSP contested Marine Parade and got quite a decent result against Goh Chok Tong and his PAP team there. The NSP sliced off quite a chunk of the votes from the PAP.
Marine Parade was last contested in 1991 and the PAP won 77.2% of the votes there.
In 2011, however, it only managed to pull through with 55.6% of the votes – that is an almost 22% decrease of the vote for the PAP.
So, you can see why NSP is quite proud of that achievement.
The WP, on the other hand, had contested Joo Chiat and got a very good result indeed. It was the second closest fight in the last elections.
The WP candidate, Yee Jenn Jong, received 49% of the vote share, compared to the PAP’s Charles Chong who got 51%.
The difference was a mere 355 votes.
So, are you beginning to see the potential clash between the NSP and WP this time round?
NSP, as expected wants to contest Marine Parade GRC, as it did in 2011.
WP, however, says it also wants to contest the GRC because Joo Chiat has been absorbed into it and the WP doesn’t want the PAP to get away with such gerrymandering.
Very valid reasons from both sides.
So, Macpherson SMC becomes the leverage, or the bargaining chip.
WP offered to give up contesting Macpherson if the NSP gave up its right to contest Marine Parade.
WP, apparently, wanted the bigger prize of a GRC.
So, at the opposition pow wow two weeks ago – which is a horse-trading meeting where all the contesting opposition parties negotiate to try and avoid three-cornered fights with the PAP – the issue was not resolved.
A second meeting was called – but this time, the WP didn’t show up.
So, the NSP gave it an ultimatum and sent the WP an email – and warned that if the WP did not respond to it by a certain deadline, the NSP would go ahead and make an announcement of its decision about Macpherson and Marine Parade.
That deadline passed and the WP did not respond.
So, the NSP went ahead and issued a statement – it said it would not contest neither Macpherson nor Marine Parade.
WP thanked the NSP for withdrawing from both the constituencies.
So, everyone was happy – and most people supported the statement because they wanted to see the WP, rather than the NSP, go up against the PAP.
But lo and behold!
About a week later, the NSP dropped a bombshell.
It is reversing its decision and rescinding its earlier statement – it was now going to contest Macpherson SMC!
Well, according to the party, this is because on its outreach programmes in the estate, residents (an unnamed number) purportedly urged the NSP to contest there.
So, having been thus persuaded or urged by these “residents”, the NSP has no choice but to make the u-turn.
Or so that was how the NSP explained its reversal.
A big uproar rose to castigate the NSP for going back on its words, for not honouring its public statement.
NSP has kept silent since.
The WP says it is puzzled by the reversal – but will go ahead with its plans unchanged.
And so, here we are – staring at an unappetising three-cornered fight which more or less ensures victory for the PAP.
But in reality, who should have the right to contest in Macpherson?
To this writer, the answer is the WP – simply because the NSP had already issued a statement of its own, signed by its secretary general (who, incidentally, has stepped down after the NSP announced its reversal of decision), and apparently supported by the party’s central executive committee.
Also, the NSP’s statement that it is reversing its decision because of residents urging it to do so is nonsensical – will the NSP reverse its latest decision once again if residents now tell them to let WP contest it?
This would make the party a rather weak and populist party.
The NSP should honour its words, made publicly, signed by the party itself, and withdraw from Macpherson SMC.
Its reason given for its reversal is flimsy and does not make sense.
However, the NSP does not look like it will reverse this latest decision to contest Macpherson.
And so, we are left with one final decision maker – the electorate.
The result of how the voters vote in this election will decide which opposition party will have the right to contest the next elections in Macpherson.
That is, if Macpherson is not absorbed into another GRC by the secretive EBRC.