Yaw – A Blow to the Opposition

The opposition parties have fared rather poorly in Singapore since the PAP moved from being an opposition party to the ruling incumbent. There are a multitude of reasons for this if you would take a walk down the muddy streets of politics. It must have come as a surprise to foreign observers to see Yaw Shin Leong sacked from the Workers’ Party over an extra marital affair. “If this was France, he would have been a prime candidate for a PM seat” – netizens were musing. No shit.

Singapore’s Brand of Politics

Just as Absolut Vodka’s depiction of Singapore stands – Singapore is squeaky clean. Everything about this little island must be morally sparkling. Clean records, top grades, perfect lifestyles, smiling families, you name it. Now there’s nothing wrong about this. It’s the culture of the land and it works for the people. But this spells massive problems for the opposition.

Workers Party – Opposition’s Current Hope

Other parties have more or less faded into the background not having the strength or capability to muster a sustained effort against the PAP. The Workers Party managed to bring to Singaporeans an image of unity, size and quality in the 2011 General Elections. Capturing Aljunied GRC was a feat. There was more than sufficient belief that the Workers Party could move from being a single seat holder (via their lead) to knocking out George Yeo’s team. This was a major step forward. Most opposition teams dare not dream of winning a seat, this WP team took 5 with aplomb.

Much Damage Done

Much Damage Done

One of it’s Own

Yaw took over and successfully continued keeping Hougang in WP’s territory. He was well received by most Singaporeans even those not in Hougang. This was the point where I personally felt that the WP was garnering more talent especially with Chen joining their ranks as well. Yaw was in many ways seen as Low’s successor, both at the Hougang seat and also as a man who can champion a single ward on his own. All that came crumbling down on Valentine’s Day. Yaw’s personal life took a dump and so did the credibility of WP. While the core team that leads Aljunied GRC went generally unstained in the eyes of the public, new candidates that the opposition introduces will be seen with a shadow of doubt by Singaporeans.

Rudderless Hougang

Hougang, a stronghold of the opposition, will now add a new line to the history books as one whose nominated minister got expelled mid term. He is second only to JBJ to have done so. Other former mid term absentees were either appointed to higher positions or had passed away. There is no way a by election can be ignored unless PM Lee believes it is fine for Hougang to be rudderless for the next 4-5 years. A by election now would be a smart move politically. Faith in WP is shaken, whosoever they choose to nominate to run will run in the shadow of Yaw. PAP’s relatively clean record will hand them the advantage.

What’s Next?

WP has to review its process of taking in new members. PAP has the advantage of having historical access when recruiting, the opposition do not and have to rely on trust. They aren’t big enough to have a reliable scouting network keeping tabs on people as well. Like tiny companies struggling against a behemoth monopoly, it should  target fringe weak spots and put in their best. Every move they make must be well calculated because failure of this magnitude cannot be repeated. Take a leaf out of what Blizzard Entertainment has done, whatever they push to the market they make sure its solid, proven and polished. They do not push many products but whatever they have launched has been a resounding success.

It’s all about impression and with citizens as picky as Singaporeans, you better not put a foot wrong.

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