It does not take much intelligence to surmise that one of the main factors which prompted PM Lee Hsien Loong to call a snap by-election in Punggol East SMC is the glaring disunity displayed by opposition parties which will weigh heavily in favour of the PAP in the fray. The scramble that the opposition parties will engage in on Nomination Day falling over one another to nominate their candidates they think will be most acceptable to the Punggol East voters will be the most ugly sight to behold. With four opposition parties and one possible independent candidate scrambling for opposition votes to compete against the PAP candidate in the by-election, the result will be a foregone conclusion with the PAP candidate romping home comfortably. It does not take a prophet to prophesy such an eventuality.
There are still four days to Nomination Day on 16 January and it is still possible for the opposition parties to close ranks and allow the Workers' Party (WP) to nominate a candidate to wage a one-to-one battle with the PAP in the by-election. Punggol East is rightly regarded as WP territory by virtue of the fact that it was the main opposition party that contested in GE 2011 securing a credible 41 per cent of the votes. The ground is considered to be in favour of the opposition and the chances of an opposition (WP) victory are more than encouraging. The main obstacle to opposition unity seems to lie with the not unpredictable intransigent character of Dr.Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). Even long before the by-election date was made public, Dr. Chee, typical of his hubristic style, announced SDP's claim of the right to contest the Punggol East seat. This sounded the first signal of opposition disunity. SDP has never contested in Punggol East and does it not make it an unconscionable encroacher of WP's territory?
In order to put up an erroneous image of the righteousness of SDP stand, Dr. Chee made several overtures to WP to try to negotiate a presentation of a united opposition candidate for the by-election. The latest SDP's proposal is presented as a radical idea that calls for the WP to work with it to field a single candidate under a joint campaign. Under its so-called "win-win-win" plan, the candidate would be from the SDP and represent the partnership in Parliament pushing SDP's policies. The person would also be chairman of the Punggol East town council, but the WP would take care of the day-to-day operations. Could anyone in his right mind have come out with such a preposterous and bizarre proposal? Quite rightly WP has not made any response.
Meanwhile WP is keeping its card close to its chest and has not even revealed its candidate at this stage. It is no doubt hoping the situation will change for the better before Nomination Day and that opposition unity will miraculouly become a reality allowing it to go into a straight fight with the PAP. This is also what the majority of Singaporeans are hoping will happen for the sake of Singapore's future. Even without any of the opposition parties withdrawing, WP, because of its notable standing, will emerge in the contest as the highest scoring candidate and may in the event of a freak election emerge as the winner. Though not likely, but not entirely impossible, there may be an erosion of sufficient disaffected PAP votes to give the WP a surprise victory. A number of opposition candidates are likely to lose their deposits, among whom will be the SDP candidate. It will be a rude awakening of the SDP from its illusion that it has a strong standing among Punggol East voters. As a corollary, SDP will have credibility problem when it faces the electorate in GE 2016, all because of the iniquitous antics of Dr. Chee Soon Juan.