7 opposition parties convened this week to invite veteran politician Dr Tan Cheng Bock to lead the new opposition coalition. This would include: the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), National Solidarity Party (NSP), People’s Power Party (PPP), Democratic Progressive Party, Reform Party, Singaporeans First, and includes an unregistered party called Peoples Voice, headed by NSP’s Lim Tean. It was Singapore Democratic Party’s Secretary-General Dr Chee Soon Juan who had raised the suggestion. And notably, the Worker’s Party is a missing piece, preferring to remain a “check” on the government than a “driver”.
In light of this possible foray into opposition politics, Dr Tan has since expressed interest to mentor the next generation of politicians, calling this a “small window of opportunity” to better leadership in Singapore politics.
However, he remains coy about his answer, making clear that while he does want to help, he is still undecided about how he will go about doing so. During that meeting, he had said that “If you want me to lead, then we must think of (the) country first. If we go in, we must go in as a team.”
Dr Tan has been a familiar face in Singapore politics. In 2011, Dr Tan had contested for presidency, losing by a slim margin of 0.35% to President Tony Tan, and while he wanted to contest in the most recent election, the government had decided it would be reserved for the Malay community. Having served 26 years as a People’s Action Party parliamentarian for 26 years, he has no doubt a wealth of experience.
But is this enough for him to be able to head an opposition coalition? Or will he take a backseat as only a symbolic figurehead? Perhaps he might decide to run as an independent candidate as some of his supporters have been calling for?
There have been many alliances that have been attempted before, the last being the Singapore Democratic Alliance which fractured in 2001- will this alliance be yet another? And are Singaporeans truly ready to risk the comfort and stability of a PAP vote for an opposition that they are unsure whether they can trust? All is to be revealed in the next general election due to be held 2021.