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The dummy's guide to Singapore's political parties: The DPP edition

The dummy's guide to Singapore's political parties: The DPP edition
PHOTO: Facebook/dppsg

Unless you've been living under a rock, you should have some inkling of the People's Action Party (PAP) and the Workers' Party (WP).

But what about RP? Or PSP? Or SDP? If these acronyms mean nothing to you, then you're in the right place.

In this series — a cheat sheet of sorts — we sieve out the facts you ought to know about Singapore's political parties.

By the end of this, you should have a better idea of the parties who may be contesting in the upcoming general election and what they're all about.

The party we're looking at today may have gone through several name changes, but they are among the oldest political parties in Singapore.

Democratic Progressive Party

When were they formed?

The party, which started out as United Front (UF), was founded by former Workers' Party (WP) assistant secretary-general Seow Khee Leng in 1973.

At the time, Seow had said that UF represented the left-wing element of the WP.

It later changed its name to Singapore United Front (SUF) in 1982 to avoid confusion with the United People's Front.

SUF had initially made bold calls such as the reunification of Singapore and Malaysia, as well as free medical services and free education before toning down its manifesto to focus on "bread-and-butter issues", The Straits Times reported ahead of the 1984 elections.

Seow and seven other SUF members resigned from the party in 1988 to contest the elections that year under the WP banner, saying that the opposition should unite against the ruling PAP.

But the party eventually contested under the name of Democratic Progressive Party for the 1997 and 2001 elections.


After a period of inactivity, DPP resurfaced in 2013 with a new manifesto and new members Benjamin Pwee, who was formerly from SPP, and current secretary-general Hamim Aliyas.

Seow, 80, remained active in the party, and was floated as a possible candidate in 2015, although he did not end up being fielded.

What are they all about?

DPP had said in 2013 that the cornerstone of its policies is to "restore respect amongst members of the society."

Previous policies had contributed to an "entrenched elitist society", DPP claimed, calling for a "recalibration of meritocracy in our society".

The party also suggested reviewing the integrated programme or the gifted programme to allow "more academically-inclined" students to assist and mingle with "average" students, and privatising "elite" primary and secondary schools to "mitigate the negative effects of elitism [versus] pluralism".

Before the 2015 election, DPP's leader at the time, Benjamin Pwee, also said that the party aimed to offer candidates that could "think outside the box", rather than "yet another civil servant [coming] in, yet another person from a big corporate company, yet another doctor".

Where are they contesting?

DPP had expressed interest in contesting Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Marymount SMC and Kebun Baru SMC in the upcoming General Election.

However, the party dropped out of the race on June 27, explaining that they wanted to avoid three-cornered fights. 

Track record

The party appears to have scaled back its electoral ambitions over the years - while it contested 14 out of the 69 seats up for election in 1976, it contested just two out of 89 seats in 2015.

Furthermore, the two seats it contested in 2015 were under the Singapore People's Party (SPP) banner.


Hamim and Pwee quit the party and formed a joint team with three SPP members to contest Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

The team eventually lost to the incumbent People's Action Party (PAP) team led by Dr Ng Eng Hen, obtaining 26.4 per cent of the vote.

In case you missed it 

Here are the other parties we've covered:

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the series — the Singapore Democratic Party.

DPP said on June 27 that it would not be contesting in the upcoming General Election. This article has been updated to reflect that.

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