Opposition: Are they ready?

Opposition: Are they ready?

THE ground is certainly fertile for the opposition to grow: The People's Action Party (PAP) suffered its biggest voter setback in the 2011 General Election (GE2011), and lost two subsequent by-elections.

Disgruntlement on the ground had been brewing before that, and calls to challenge the status quo have become louder.

But pundits say the opposition camp's lack of talent, unity and experience in management continues to render it too weak to unseat the PAP and take on the job of governing a nation.

Indeed, opposition figure Goh Meng Seng, 44 - a former secretary-general of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) who contested on the party's ticket in 2011, and on a Workers' Party (WP) ticket in the 2006 election - declares there is no one opposition party that can take the helm any time soon. "Although WP can be a very strong opponent, I do not think in five to 10 years' time, it can become the dominant party," he says.

It is a fact not lost on the party itself.

The WP is opposition top dog, with seven elected MPs and two Non-Constituency MPs in Parliament - none of the other six opposition parties that contested in the last election even have elected MPs. But, as it puts it, it cannot form a government yet, though it can be the PAP's "co-driver".

A problem that plagues the opposition camp is one the PAP itself is also facing: the difficulty in attracting and keeping talent.

Several newcomers who made a splash in the last election have either left their parties or gone quiet.

Most recently, GE2011 darling Nicole Seah quit the NSP. But the WP's showing in GE2011 has at least eased the situation. With an opposition ticket now seen as a viable way to win, such parties may be able to attract better-quality candidates, says Mr Goh.

However, when it comes to running the country, opposition parties have an uphill task proving they have the sheer administerial experience and know-how to do so.

Take the WP. Its track record on the ground managing the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council has been hit-and- miss, observes consultancy boss and former Nominated MP (NMP) Viswa Sadasivan.

It has had problems with submitting its town council reports on time, and has also been embroiled in skirmishes with the National Environment Agency over hawker-centre cleaning and the running of an allegedly unauthorised fair.

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