NSP retracting stand on contesting MacPherson may spell trouble for it: Analysts

Cracks have begun to appear - barely 24 hours after Singaporeans First chief Tan Jee Say said at a National University of Singapore Society forum that the opposition was "so united that it avoided three-corner fights".

In a statement released a little after 5pm yesterday, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) said that it would retract its previous stance of not fighting for the MacPherson single-member constituency (SMC).

It also took a swipe at the Workers' Party (WP), saying that the WP had not responded to NSP's attempts to work out the issue, especially since NSP had been working the ground at MacPherson for some time.

The latest move could mean a split vote from a three-way fight between the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Tin Pei Ling, NSP's Steve Chia and WP.

The WP has yet to reveal its candidate for the ward.

Resigns again

Barely an hour after the NSP statement was released, NSP acting secretary-general Hazel Poa, 44, announced her decision to quit.

She said the decision to run Mr Chia in MacPherson was one she "strongly disagreed with" and "one I could not implement".

She also said she would be taking herself out of the running in the coming General Election.

This is the second time Ms Poa has resigned from the NSP.

Ms Poa, a former government scholarship holder, was elected as the party's secretary-general in June 2011 and again in April 2013, but stepped down suddenly in September 2013, citing health reasons.

She was appointed acting secretary-general in June after Mr Tan Lam Siong resigned as party chief.

When contacted yesterday, political analysts said NSP's implosion and U-turn from its stance two weeks ago, after WP had staked its claims on the wards it would contest, would hurt it badly.

Dr Lan Luh Luh, associate professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) business school and faculty of law, said it showed NSP's poor planning and lack of commitment to MacPherson SMC.

"Voters will now need convincing that the NSP would be there for them. To move forward, they need to show concrete plans and proposals that would help residents and shape Singapore."

Dr Lan also said that Ms Poa's resignation could not have come at a worse time.

"If she, the secretary-general, could not control her few party members, how does the party show that they can control a government or town council?"

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said that if a three-cornered fight does take place in MacPherson, NSP is likely to finish third.

On the party's complaint that it had been snubbed by WP and the opposition cracks in the public show of unity, he said he did not think WP behaved unfairly by declaring early the constituencies it was interested in.

"WP knew their stronger political standing, compared to other opposition parties, who would enter a three-cornered fight at their own risk."

In the current scenario, Prof Tan said that Mr Chia, who is a NSP central executive committee member, is likely to take over Ms Poa's post.

NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser said that opposition unity has remained an aspiration rather than a reality.

"Each party has to assess the costs and benefits of compromising to avoid three-cornered contests. If benefits are greater than costs, then we'll see compromises manifested as unity," he said.

The WP's Png Eng Huat, the MP for Hougang, told reporters last night that while the WP was shocked by NSP's U-turn, there was no change to his party's plans.

"We intend to give voters a choice in all the constituencies that we have announced that we will be contesting," he said.

Return of Steve Chia

Veteran politician Steve Chia, 44, is no stranger to Singapore opposition politics - and controversy.

While reading psychology and philosophy at the National University of Singapore (NUS), he was active in student politics, having been elected president of the NUS Students' Union in 1993.

He joined the National Solidarity Party (NSP) in 1995, a year after graduating.

In the 1997 General Election, he was part of NSP's team contesting the Hong Kah Group Representation Constituency (GRC), but lost to the team from the People's Action Party (PAP).

He ran again in the 2001 GE in the Choa Chu Kang Single-Member Constituency (SMC), but under the Singapore Democratic Alliance's (SDA) banner after NSP joined the SDA.


He was once again defeated by a PAP candidate, but later became a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP).

In 2003, while he was an NCMP, he was embroiled in a scandal after his wife made a police report when she found topless photos of their maid in his computer.

He claimed no wrongdoing, and even showed the media nude photos he had taken of himself.

In the 2006 GE, he won 39.6 per cent of the votes in Choa Chu Kang SMC, losing to the PAP's Gan Kim Yong.

That same year, he was fined for beating a red light that caused a crash involving a bus.

He contested a fourth time in the 2011 GE for Pioneer SMC, under the NSP's banner, but lost to the PAP's Cedric Foo.

This article was first published on August 20, 2015.
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