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

The dummy's guide to Singapore's political parties: The SDP edition
PHOTO: Facebook/yoursdp

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 which may be contesting in the upcoming general election and what they're all about.

The party we're looking at today has been a regular fixture in Singapore politics since the 80s.

Singapore Democratic Party

When were they formed?

SDP was founded in 1980 by Chiam See Tong to act as a check against the one-party government at the time.

One of the party's early goals was also "awakening Singaporeans politically", newspaper New Nation reported in 1981.

However, party in-fighting led to Chiam stepping down as secretary-general in 1993 and quitting the party in 1996.

Chee Soon Juan has been the leader of the party since 1993.


What are they all about?

SDP describes itself as a "competent, constructive and compassionate" party.

Its mission includes building a Singapore where people do not "constantly struggle with the cost of living", ensuring Singaporeans' access to CPF funds, reducing competition with foreigners for employment, making sure the poor "have a roof over their heads" and creating jobs for the youth.

For the upcoming election, SDP will base its campaign on the tagline "Four Yes, One No", or 4Y1N.


SDP is saying yes to cutting GST until end 2021, providing retrenchment benefits for workers retrenched as a result of Covid-19, providing a monthly income of $500 for eligible retirees and putting the people's interests first.

On the flip side, the party is against the idea of Singapore having a population of 10 million.

Singapore's population hit 5.7 million in June 2019 and is projected to continue growing in the coming years — the 2013 Population White Paper projected a population of 6.5 to 6.9 million by 2030.


Liu Thai Ker, who served as chief planner at the Urban Redevelopment Authority from 1989 to 1992, had said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for a population of 10 million people in order to remain sustainable in the long term.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also cited Liu's remarks at a ministerial dialogue at Nanyang Technological University in March 2019.

However, SDP raised concerns regarding an increased population density, citing the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak as an example.

"Also, our economy has become overly dependent on foreign workers especially [Professionals, managers, executives and technicians]," SDP said in its statement launching the campaign, adding that it would "push to stop" PAP from raising Singapore's population if elected.

Where are they contesting?


Dr Chee will contest Bukit Batok SMC in the upcoming election, Today reported. He had contested the seat in the 2016 by-election and lost to PAP's Murali Pillai.

SDP member Benjamin Pwee, who was formerly the secretary-general of the Democratic Progressive Party, will be the party's "new face" for Yuhua SMC, The Straits Times reported.

Last August, the party also expressed interest in contesting Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and Bukit Panjang SMC — all constituencies it had contested in 2015.

Track record


The party has taken part in every general election since 1980, to varying degrees of success.

One of SDP's highlights was winning Potong Pasir SMC in 1984. Chiam's victory over PAP's Mah Bow Tan marked the first time a SDP member was elected to Parliament.

SDP went on to win a total of three seats in 1991, its best result in a general election to date. The three seats were Potong Pasir SMC and the now defunct Bukit Gombak and Nee Soon Central SMCs.

SDP continued to hold Potong Pasir SMC until 1997, when Chiam won the seat under the Singapore People's Party banner instead.

SDP did not win any seats in the 1997 general election and has also not won a seat since.

In case you missed it 

Here are the other parties we've covered:

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the series — the National Solidarity Party.

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