Saturday, 2 February 2013

What WP must do next

The win by WP's Lee Li Lian in Punggol East by-election was the second best results the WP could have hoped for.

The Best result for the WP would have been a credible loss - taking over 40% of the votes, but losing marginally to PAP.

This win was bitter-sweet.

While it is always good to win, there are consequences for the win. It is another Town Council to run, and the WP may be resource-challenged to run yet another Town Council.

At least that's the theory my colleague has.

On a wider issue, WP is concerned that perhaps the voters are expecting too much and had to dampen or manage their expectations. WP chief is worried that voters may expect the WP to turn things around now that they have 8 MPs in Parliament. And if WP don't deliver, those voters will turn around and "bite" them.

WP (and most if not all opposition parties) simply take the position of "opposing" the PAP. But the WP can no longer do this. In the early stages, an opposition party can simply oppose for the sake of opposing, to simply ask the ruling party, "is there another way?"

However, once the party has acquired some weight, some political cachet, they have to be able to say, to at least suggest "what about this way?"

They can no longer simply be "auditors" of the PAP. They have to present an alternative view, and to be able to persuade people of the validity and feasibility of their alternate vision!

That's the theory and the "road map" so to speak.

The practical reality though is that there may be a simpler alternative. One that is more do-able. And still continue to score them political points, and continue to drive their political growth, even as they seek to develop a grand alternative vision.

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council handover and the new Punggol East handover promises to be "dramatic" and confusing if not controversial and complicated.

Part of the problem is that with a 50 year dominance and the de facto single party system that Singapore has had, the incumbent PAP has entrenched itself and weaved the political party and the government so tightly together that the lines between them are blurred.

This is not necessarily an insidious process, born out of malice or even arrogance, but simply the natural process of simplifying (or short-cutting) bureaucratic processes.

The WP as the dominant opposition is in a unique (some may say unenviable) position of seeing how entangled the PAP and the Government has become, and how obstructive (or resistive) the entangled process are to a "change in management" that an opposition win presents.

The WP can "help" the PAP to disentangle itself from the government bureaucracy or processes and this would be of great help to the democratic process (or the outcome of the democratic process), to the WP specifically (or retroactively, so maybe not so), and to other opposition parties who may win a seat or two in the future.

The WP public communications should be along these lines:
The PAP has been the government for so long, that the lines between PAP and Government has blurred to invisibility. This is not malice or arrogance, but expedience. However, democratic processes cannot be sacrificed for the sake of expedience. The lines have to be re-established and WP is in a unique position to help re-establish these lines.

The WP is doing this because of the difficulties it is facing transferring the management of Town Councils from the PAP to the WP. These transfers should be smoother, and WP suspects that transfer from one PAP to another PAP MP (incumbent to new) is probably as difficult but the PAP (a political party) probably ease the transitions in PAP wards. However, that is no longer acceptable or even workable in all cases. The processes have to be more transparent, and open to scrutiny.

What we do today, will help Singapore's democracy for the future.

With this, WP is "excused" (at least temporarily) from coming up with a "grand vision". By focusing on ground issues, real issues, pragmatic and practical considerations, the WP show that they are in touch with real issues, and speak of "democracy" and transparency anchored in real practical concerns that affect all residents (of the opposition ward).

And even though this is a temporary measure (as the WP work on getting a compelling "grand vision"), this measure could last for a few years, buying the WP more time for that grand vision to develop.

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