Elected Presidency: WP’s disappointing performance in Parliament

I used to love seeing the WP cross swords with the PAP in Parliament. It was exciting – while nothing compared to what they have in the British Parliament – it was entertaining nonetheless by Singapore’s standards.

Of course, PAP would usually have the upper hand. But not by much. WP would sometimes throw PAP a good one and make the latter look stupid.

But moments like these were missing during last week’s debate on the Elected Presidency in Parliament.

It was a one-sided affair. In fact, WP totally capitulated under the weight of PAP’s questioning.

Law Minister K Shanmugam described the WP’s alternative proposal for the Elected Presidency – reverting back to the appointed president system, with custodial powers delegated to a senate consisting of eight elected senators – as a “disaster” and “half-baked”.

And Shanmugam was actually right.

Check out the clip above, and look at how Shanmugam grilled WP NCMP Dennis Tan, who stumbled around and gave contradictory answer.

WP Chief Low Thia Khiang had to step in, but gave a shocking answer when pressed by Shanmugam on the eligibility criteria under WP’s senate model – Low said that the WP had “not fully worked out” the details.

I mean, what they thinking?

Coming into Parliament without getting their own policy details sorted out? How do you expect to engage in a meaningful debate without doing your own homework?

And look at Minister of State Janil Puthucheary (sounding a lot like DPM Tharman here may I add) tearing apart WP’s proposal with clear logic, much like a hot knife cutting through butter.

In other words, WP was in a complete mess.

The question is, why?

Two possible hypotheses.

Perhaps WP’s troubles with the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) issue have taken its toil? Possibly. Given that they are in deep trouble right now, and have to appoint a third party to recover so-called improper payments.

The AHTC issue must have been an unwelcome distraction, thus accounting WP’s lacklustre performance in Parliament. There’s only bandwidth to concentrate on a few things at a time. The whole saga probably gave WP MPs some sleepless nights too.

Or was it possible internal infighting within the WP? We all know that WP MP Chen Show Mao challenged Low Thia Khiang for the secretary-general position earlier this year in the WP party elections, but lost narrowly. Chen Show Mao has looked distanced and out-of-sorts ever since. Doesn’t help when there have been rumours of a growing rift within the party.

However, there’s a piece of good news for WP.

The next general election probably wouldn’t be called till at least three years later. There is still time for WP to regroup and get ahead of the curve.