U.S. Markets closed

Unifying Singapore's Opposition Remains a Challenge as Election Nears

Philip J. Heijmans

(Bloomberg) -- Unifying Singapore’s fractured opposition “remains a real challenge” ahead of the city-state’s anticipated general elections, according to the leader of the country’s biggest opposition party.

“The reality is that different parties and individuals have different philosophies, both ideologically and in terms of how we engage the issues of the day,” Pritam Singh, head of The Workers’ Party, said in a Facebook post this week.

Singapore’s politics is dominated by the ruling People’s Action Party, which has been in power since before Singapore became its own country in 1965. Led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the PAP won 83 out of 89 parliamentary seats in the 2015 elections, with the rest retained by The Workers’ Party.

Singapore’s next general election must be held by April 2021, though the ruling party has called for early polls in recent cycles. It’s widely expected to be Lee’s last as leader, having vowed to hand over the reins by the time he turns 70 in 2022. The PAP last year picked Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as Lee’s de facto successor.

Singh said his Workers’ Party is hoping to maintain its role as “an important check and balance,” adding their objective was not “the destruction of our political opponents,” but rather to cultivate a “loyal” opposition.

“As a small political player in our landscape, the Worker’s Party must get its political purpose right,” he said. Singh and other opposition officials was recently under public scrutiny when they were found liable by the courts over the misuse of town council funds.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee called on members of the ruling party to prepare for a “tough fight” at the next general election while speaking at a party convention over the weekend. “This election is not just about the PAP doing a bit better or a bit worse, this election will decide if Singapore can sustain good and stable government,” Lee said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Philip J. Heijmans in Singapore at pheijmans1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Derek Wallbank, Joyce Koh

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.