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Singapore Democratic Party kicks off election campaign amid uncertainty over timing of polls

SINGAPORE – While the timing of the next General Election (GE) remains up in the air, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) officially launched its election campaign on Saturday (Feb 23).

The SDP will present its policy papers on housing and the cost of living next month, followed by two more policy papers on healthcare and population issues in May.

The SDP will present its policy papers on housing and the cost of living next month, followed by two more policy papers on healthcare and population issues in May.

SINGAPORE – While the timing of the next General Election (GE) remains up in the air, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) officially launched its election campaign on Saturday (Feb 23).

The opposition party will present its policy papers on housing and the cost of living next month, followed by two more policy papers on healthcare and population issues in May, said SDP vice-chairman John Tan.

This will be followed by a revamp of its website in June.

In July, it will roll out a policy handbook containing proposals on issues ranging from education and ministerial salaries, to those relating to the Malay community.

Although there was speculation that snap polls could be held this year, political analysts are divided on whether Budget 2019 – presented this week by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat – provided sufficient hints of an imminent General Election (GE). Some felt the election, which is due by early 2021, could be held next year.

Despite not knowing when the polls will be called, SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan said the party wants to “start early”.

“Call us ‘kiasu’ (afraid to lose), but it’s important for us because we don’t know when the election is going to be held. But by the time it’s called (we might be) too late, so we are starting early,” Dr Chee told some 200 supporters at the launch, held at Mandarin Orchard hotel.

Assuming the GE will be held in September, the party will hold a pre-election rally that month before unveiling its plan on changing how town councils are managed in October.

Asked by reporters whether there is a concern the party might lose steam if the GE is called next year and how the SDP’s plans might be affected, Dr Chee responded: “If that was the case, we would have lost steam by now because we started (preparing) three years ago, after the last election.”

If parties only start doing their groundwork nearer to the election date, it would be a “gone case”, he added.

Following the last GE in 2015, the party has been planning and strategising for the next polls, including the issues and messages it wants to put out that will resonate with the electorate, he said.

On Saturday, several SDP central executive committee members also gave their take on issues of accountability and elitism in the Government, and raised concerns over the rising cost of living and the influx of foreigners.

Citing a recent commentary by economist and academic Donald Low, SDP chairman Paul Tambyah said that while the Government plans to raise taxes for goods and services, it did not raise wealth taxes or introduce new ways to tax wealth.

The party was also asked about opposition unity and its stand on other issues during the dialogue segment.

Dr Chee said there is a growing sense among some opposition parties that “we cannot do what we did in the past”, adding that the opposition has to be “more coordinated”.

Last July, the SDP gathered six other opposition parties to discuss the possibility of forming a coalition, led by former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament and presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock, for the next General Election.

Dr Tan recently applied to set up his own party, the Progress Singapore Party, with some former cadres from the ruling party.

Asked by reporters if the involvement of the Workers’ Party (WP) – the largest opposition party here – is vital for any coalition, Dr Chee said that the SDP wants to be the facilitator. He also called on Dr Tan to “persuade any or all opposition parties to come to the table and talk”.

On what prevents the opposition from banding together, Dr Chee replied that the opposition has to work towards a common goal and values.

“The first step is we need to get everybody and sit at the same table and just to ask the question ‘what we’re trying to achieve?’ If it’s (about an individual) just getting into Parliament no matter what, then I think we’ll fail,” he noted. “Let’s put our differences aside.”

A party supporter asked if the SDP has a plan to generate revenue and jobs, while another questioned the party’s position on climate change.

In response, Dr Chee said that the country’s economy is “living on borrowed time”, and there is a need to boost lagging productivity and innovation as well as rely less on cheap foreign labour to augment the economy.

On climate change, he noted that the country is still dependent on fossil fuels, adding that the party is still studying the issue and will come out with a comprehensive and viable proposal.

Spotted at the launch was Mr Benjamin Pwee, the former leader of the Democratic Progressive Party who announced this week that he and a few others have submitted their applications to join the SDP.

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Singapore Democratic Party General Election campaign

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