In the recent Presidential Election, former People’s Action Party (PAP) backbencher Dr Tan Cheng Bock caused a stir by coming within a percentage point of defeating the preferred PAP candidate Dr Tony Tan. As Singapore's 12th Parliament kicks, the former PAP MP (Member of Parliament) is not going into the shadows as he urged current PAP backbenchers to “stand up for their beliefs”.
The former presidential candidate has said during the Presidential Election that many of his former backbenchers have refused to help him with his campaign as they do not wish to cross the party. This is something Dr Tan obviously does not agree with as he was known as a backbencher who has no bones about publicly disagreeing with the government. When he was a PAP MP, he spoke out against certain policies like foreign talent intake and the Nominated MP scheme. He is now urging others to take up his place.
Now I’m sure the party elites of the PAP are not happy about his call, but I do feel that there’s a good reason for them to allow the backbenchers some leeway. The PAP backbenchers need to do this to appease the grassroots. For many years now, the PAP had parachuted candidates into safe seats and let them win on the backs of their grassroots movement. That can no longer be counted on.
Basically the grassroots are no longer convinced that it is worth having PAP backbenchers who do not listen to them. Dr Tan’s presidential campaign was a grassroots movement and as the results showed, they are an important and big part of the PAP machinery. The PAP needs the grassroots on their side if they intend to win the next election and that means the PAP backbenchers need to listen to their grassroots more. More importantly, they need to publicly go against the PAP elites on behalf of their grassroots if push comes to shove.
Frankly you can’t argue with numbers. Like I said earlier, I’m sure the party elites of the PAP are not happy about Dr Tan’s call but for the good of the PAP, PAP backbenchers need to listen to him. As the results of Dr Tan’s presidential campaign showed, he is on to something.