Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

AHTC lawsuit could test WP unity, say analysts

SINGAPORE — While it remains to be seen whether the civil lawsuit will weaken electoral support for the Workers’ Party (WP), some political analysts feel it could stir unrest within an opposition which recently witnessed a leadership challenge.

Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim, from the Workers' Party, speaking to the media ahead of a MPS session at the Blk 713 along Bedok Reservoir road on 26th July. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim, from the Workers' Party, speaking to the media ahead of a MPS session at the Blk 713 along Bedok Reservoir road on 26th July. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

Follow us on Instagram and Tiktok, and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.

SINGAPORE — While it remains to be seen whether the civil lawsuit will weaken electoral support for the Workers’ Party (WP), some political analysts feel it could stir unrest within an opposition which recently witnessed a leadership challenge.

Other experts, however, argue that party members could close ranks over the latest blow to the opposition’s reputation and give their full support to Mr Low Thia Khiang, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Pritam Singh — who occupy its top three leadership positions.

Mr Low and Ms Lim are the party’s secretary-general and chairman respectively, while Mr Singh is the assistant secretary-general.

Associate Professor Alan Chong, of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, feels the lawsuit could affect the trio’s standing in the party.

The National University of Singapore’s political scientist Bilveer Singh noted the “sense of unity within the party is not as strong as in previous years”, saying: “One consequence of this town council issue is that it may worsen the already-existing divide.”

He believes the lawsuit may prompt calls for leadership renewal to restore the party’s credibility.

At the party’s biennial Central Executive Council elections last year, Mr Chen Show Mao mounted a challenge for the secretary-general position — the first such challenge Mr Low hadfaced since he took charge of the party in 2001. Mr Low, who retained his post with a 61-45 vote, said after the election that he welcomed the contest as part of a “healthy democratic process” — a point he reiterated last night at his Meet-the-People Session.

Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, a fellow from research centre ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, said questions will be asked within the WP’s rank and file, but did not think the lawsuit would affect the three leaders’ standing in the party.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan argued that in fact, the party could come together since it is “indirectly implicated and will suffer collateral damage” if Mr Low, Ms Lim and Mr Singh fail to defend themselves. “Party loyalists will be unlikely to support a leadership challenge (at this point),” he said.

Assoc Prof Tan said that as long as no criminal wrongdoing is involved, it is not a “death knell” for the party. But he noted that the saga — which has been ongoing since 2014 — has taken away the party’s bragging rights that it can run a town council “efficiently, effectively and economically”.

Assoc Prof Singh noted that despite its town council financial management lapses, the party retained its Aljunied GRC and Hougang seats in the 2015 General Election (GE) — albeit with lower winning margins than in the 2011 polls. Nevertheless, the WP lost Punggol East in the 2015 election.

Dr Mustafa said the lawsuit will consume the party’s resources and attention in the lead-up to the next GE, due by January 2021.

“No doubt that WP’s image has been affected by the (issue), not least among its constituents. That is why the WP leaders (said) they are going to vigorously fight the case, to defend their individual reputations and the reputation of their party,” he added.

He reiterated that the suit “poses a severe problem for the WP, more politically than financially”.

“If not handled tactfully and urgently, the AHTC issue could take on a life of its own and engender a trust deficit between the WP and the constituents they serve ... and beyond their constituencies to the rest of Singapore”. FARIS MOKHTAR

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.