Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 1
Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 2
Two oppositions, and why in the long run, they may not matter at all, part 3
You should read his essay in the original form so that you don't miss any of his arguments. But in case you don't have time, as usual, I've done a summary:
1. There are 2 oppositions - "On the one side, we have those who are quick to protest their fealty to the king ("my lord, we will always play by your rules, no way civil disobedience") and who adopt the same measure and meaning of 'credibility' as the king. The other side contests both." Those in the 1st camp 'with an aversion to playing it tougher' resembling the mainstream of our society - risk averse in almost everything they do.
2. There is an array of issues that form dissent against the govt. They are:
- Stress and pace of life
- Economic equity
- Communal interests (issues related to race and religion)
- Civil liberties/social justice
3. There is a core group of opposition supporters forming 25-40% of the voters - they strongly dislike or hate the PAP. Once they are infected with this hate, it is hard for the PAP to win them over. The support level for the opposition is stuck at this level because the rest of the voters do not share this strong dislike for the PAP.
3. Opposition parties deal with this situation in two ways - one fan the hatred so that it spreads, two to make reasonable criticisms of the PAP policy so that 'middle of the road' voters come onboard. The 2nd approach is harder because the opposition lacks resources like policy think-tanks and as many opposition party members are actually motivated by 'visceral dislike' for the PAP, all this looks like a chore. The end result is an opposition that lacks a coherent platform.
4. The WP's approach to try to sell a big manifesto in 9 days of campaigning in the last elections was a mistake because there wasn't enough time for the people to digest it. Instead, it should have been done over as a long term task - engaging people with alternative ideas and collecting feedback + fine tuning. They also need to reduce the alternative proposals to in key ideas for better retention in public's mind. To do this the WP has to be very coherent in its philosophical positioning - socialists, left or right? Today it is not so clear where they are. The lack of philosophical coherency, makes it hard for WP to criticise the govt because they cannot establish position in a continuum of policy options e.g. how much to subsidise medical fees on a scale of 0% to 100%.
5. A example of coherent positioning is the SDP. People may not like them but they know the SDP's position on civil liberties. However, the SDP is far less successful with 'branding' on economic issues.
6. That WP tries to sell itself as a watchdog is a cop out. Only people who already don't trust the govt will support them for this and it does not help to expand the core base.
7. The PAP does not hog the center ground in its policy making sometimes taking to extreme views e.g. stress is good for you on the pace of life issue. This gives plenty of ground for the opposition to formulate alternatives and occupy the center with ideas more supportable by the public.
8. If there is a change in the habits of opposition parties, will there be a change in the vote count?
9. The 3rd part of his essay looks at the possibility of a split in the PAP and in the long run. This has happened in several other countries with dominant parties. So the real show may be what happens within the PAP rather than what goes on in the opposition.
Before reading Alex's essay, I gave the issue of opposition election strategy plenty of thought and came to a completely different conclusion. My belief it is far harder for PAP to retain its dominance in future elections regardless of what the opposition does (as long as they don't fumble too badly). In fact it is the PAP that has to reposition itself. As Alex correctly pointed out, very often Singaporeans are asked to swallow policy options/decisions that are clearly at the extreme end - will Singaporeans continue to accept this or will they do something about it.
My next posting will look at the issue of election strategy more broadly and walk you through the arguments that led to my conclusion.