1. Quality candidates
The Opposition needs more graduates and professionals to run against the PAP.
For too long, the opposition has put up technicians, sales executives and small businessmen as candidates to run against the PAP.
I’m not prejudiced against technicians, sales executives or small businessmen, but when the opponent puts up a slate of well-educated lawyers, doctors and managers for election, the opposition must realise they are at a disadvantage from the start.
Singapore is still a conservative society where qualifications are still highly regarded. This is not a country that will elect former strippers or porn stars to be MP’s.
That’s the reality.
Some “opposition” leaders think educational qualifications are overrated, just look at the current bunch of “caught off guard” ministers, they say.
That’s flawed thinking.
Just because some high-flying PAP ministers have not taken direct responsibility for high-profile incidents such as Mas Selamat and the MRT depot break-in does not mean that well-educated professionals are not necessary for the opposition. On the contrary, it is something the opposition should work harder on– to find well-educated professionals with integrity.
The opposition have to realise that, in Singapore politics, courage and willingness to stand against the PAP is not enough. One has to be perceived to be better than the PAP candidates to get elected. If a party doesn’t have good enough candidates to offer the electorate, it should not waste the time and $$ to run, and definitely it should not waste the electorate’s time either.
There are encouraging signs that more graduates and professionals are now (in 2010) willing to run against the PAP. A number of parties have indicated that they have taken many such graduates and professionals into their ranks.
Lets hope they will show themselves at the next General Election.
2. More Funding
It is a sad fact that opposition politicians are generally not well-off. Thus their party offices are spartan to say the least, they depend on sales of newsletters for critical funding, and they even try to run for office on a $10,000 budget.
That’s partly because the candidates themselves aren’t well-off in the first place, and $10,000 or $20,000 is all they can afford to put up.
I salute their sacrifice, I know it’s their hard-earned money.
But with respect, this can’t work.
Why do you think that politicians in the US tend to come from wealthy families, like the Kennedys?
Even Obama had to raise funds via the Internet to keep his campaign going.
Political campaigns need substantial funding, there’s just no two ways about it.
I know donations are difficult to come by, and $10,000 or $20,000 is all the candidates can spare.
But if that’s the case, the rational decision is not to run. Because throwing away $10,000 or $20,000 is just silly.
The expense ($10,000 or $20,000) is certain, but a favourable outcome (ie getting elected) is highly unlikely given that level of expenditure.
So rationally, it’s a poor bet and one should not even run.
If one cannot attract candidates who can spend $50,000 or $100,000 on their campaigns, one should either withdraw from the race, or pool one’s bets.
In other words, instead of spending $10k per candidate contesting three GRC’s, it’s far better to spend $30k per candidate contesting one GRC.
By doing so, the probability of winning a GRC is much higher, and it shifts the risk-reward equation significantly.
Same amount of campaign expense, but a far higher chance of victory.
3. A Clear Leader
The opposition in Singapore needs a clear leader, someone everyone looks up to and rallies around, like Anwar in Malaysia.
Chiam had a chance in 1991, when SDP had three seats in Parliament and the Speaker announced at the opening of Parliament that the House recognised him as the Leader of the Opposition.
But Chiam blew it. Or maybe he just wasn’t the kind of man that other men look up to and rally around.
Whatever the case, without a strong, charismatic and respected leader, the opposition in Singapore is just a motley bunch of internecine snipers who will never get anywhere.
With a strong leader, the opposition can fight the PAP with a united front, on a united platform.
With a strong leader of the opposition, one would hope for leadership, vision and goal-setting.
The first goal should be to have more than 30 opposition members in Parliament, to deny the PAP a 2/3rd’s majority so it cannot make changes to the Constitution on its own.
Once that goal is achieved, then the next goal will be in sight, to form an alliance Govt.
But who can be the first Singapore Opposition Idol?
20 years on, we are still waiting for his coming.