The Same Old Same Old

Alvin Tan

The Merlion

The Merlion is still alive despite being struck by lightning twice.

In retrospect, the recent presidential and general elections represent the same old story that life is always complicated. In this nation, the political landscape spun the same old tales. The Merlion is still “alive” despite being struck by lightning and the so-called pledge to tighten immigration seems to be forgotten.

In all, there is little variation in the current political parties’ actions. Despite the naysayers, the People Action Party (PAP) is still strong, with a political machine second to none. Even though there are concerns in regards to President Tony Tan’s winning margin of 0.3%, one must not forget that the second place is also, by and large, a PAP man. Despite the louder calls from the extremes, Singaporeans are still staunchly centrist, believing in the PAP brand and do not wish to rock the “stable” boat.

The opposition newly minted “darling” is heading in the direction of self-destruct, like its former “star” Chee Soon Juan. In fact, Tan Jay See resembles Herman Cain, who just dropped out of the Republican Presidential Nomination Race. Both of them believe that they have an excellent economic plan, yet when in face of constructive criticism, both distance themselves away from the fallacy of it, emphasizing on the accolades their plans received instead of retooling it. Both also have an interesting notion of greatness and their “popularity.”

That being said, the Singapore Democratic Party seems to be working hard in curbing its radicalism, but with Chee Soon Juan remaining the head honcho, is such an effort a façade or perhaps a true signal of its direction? But still amongst the opposition party its effort seems to be one of the most organized and directed. Even with its past radical image it is still able to attract interesting talents. Let’s hope they do not self-destruct again, like its record shows it did in 1991.

All the while, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) still appears to be the multi-headed hydra with an inconsistent platform switching its policies and targets. In fact, their track record seems to be in line with smarmy Mitt Romney. Yet the NSP is also one of the parties to look out for as it has a large potential to re-invent itself into a solid consistent party. But would its rumoured rich towkays allow it? Your guess is as good as mine–not to mention that it’s potential to be the vote spoiler in certain electorate could make it a valuable ally to the ruling party.

Next up is the Singapore People Party (SPP), headed by local opposition legend Chiam See Tong. However, this party is at a critical stage. Where they could rise like a phoenix or fade away like the Labour Front. Its brand name still raises a feel good feeling and it has the needed grassroots organization, but would the next generation be able to pull the party through? It may have the necessary talent, but would the party’s greatest strength, Mr Chiam, be its greatest liability, especially with his wife’s involvement?

Then also we have the leading opposition party: The Worker’s Party. To many Singaporeans this opposition represents a hope of a different rule, but upon closer inspection is it all that different? It is rumoured that Mr Low Thia Kiang has an iron grip on the party and that the party whip is on par with the ruling party. Step out of line and you have to face the consequences. Coupled with its increased presence in the parliament and its impressive political machinery they are a real force to be reckoned with. In fact if you realize that the party’s promise is not as much of a different rule as it is a secondary party to the ruling party which poise itself as a credible and stable alternative and has more similarity with the ruling party then the opposition as the whole.

Of course there are many more minor parties, but are Singaporeans able to stomach more of them? And is our political landscape ready for a multitude of parties? The last general election was considered a record “win” by the opposition because of a last minute opposition unity. But with more parties in the mix, would such a “unity” last? I highly doubt so. To be frank, the average voter isn’t asking for much, all they want is a candidate that is qualified and is able to empathise the woes they face. The reality is that Singaporean is a pragmatic lot, which perhaps explains the appeals of the centrist party and the same old political story.