Recruitment biggest challenge for Singapore's political parties, say analysts
SINGAPORE: Political watchers have said the biggest challenge for all political parties - both ruling and opposition in Singapore - is to recruit credible members.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said on Friday that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is trying to force the opposition to gather good candidates that will equal the PAP in integrity and competence so that if the PAP fails, there will be an alternative. He added, however, that the opposition has not been able to do so.
The opposition was out and about in the 2006 Singapore General Election. One political watcher said the parties need to keep up this visibility post elections, as well as to do more.
Eugene Tan, Assistant Professor at Singapore Management University's School of Law, said: "They need to be able to have that brain trust to be able to comment effectively on government policies and offer quality alternative. They need to rise above themselves, go beyond just being an opposition, to be - in a way - government-in-waiting."
Observers said another challenge for the opposition is to translate the good turnouts at the rallies to actual votes in the ballot boxes.
Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim is clearly aware of this. Her focus is to get enough credible people into Parliament. She admitted her party is far from being able to form a 'shadow Cabinet', or offer policy alternatives.
"Parliamentary presence is the first step, so we would still want to focus on getting credible people elected into Parliament," said Sylvia Lim, who is a Non-Constituency MP (NCMP).
"We may slog, we may work towards winning election, but in the end we may lose. So there has to be that spirit of perseverance to believe in the process - and getting Singaporeans to be involved in the process is just as important, if not as important as the outcome." She admitted, though, that recruitment is a challenge.
At a community event, MP Indranee Rajah told Channel NewsAsia that it is in the country's interest to have a good pool of talent, be it from the PAP or the opposition.
She said: "Just because we are a small country doesn't mean there is a lack of people to step up to the plate, if need be. As for the opposition, if they want to grow, really I think they need to identify those good candidates, they need to identify how to have a good organisation."
PAP MP Michael Palmer feels that from the last election, younger Singaporeans seem more willing to associate with opposition parties. For him, the over-riding problem for all political parties is getting capable people with integrity into politics.
For the opposition, this could mean some time before it can be an alternative to the PAP government.