“Members in the “reformist camp” aspire towards a more inclusive leadership that accommodates different ideas and feedback” (WP Leadership Tussle “Brewing Since 2014”, Kelly Ng).
Without firmer details about developments within the Workers’ Party – especially after “an unprecedented challenge to party chief Low Thia Khiang” (TODAY, Jun. 1) during the Central Executive Council elections, in which fellow Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC Chen Show Mao secured more than two-fifths of the 106 votes – it is unfair to conclude whether the “internal rifts” are necessarily deleterious. In fact such contestation within the leadership of a political party, reflecting different perspectives, could even be constructive.
Concerns over an “autocratic” leadership style and a homogenous cadre membership could point to a lack of diversity within the WP, while calls for a more “consultative and inclusive” approach could hint at the lack of discourse, perhaps over approaches to socio-political or economic policies. Years ago after he had announced his decision to retire from politics, then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Boon Heng got emotional at a press conference when responding to a question about groupthink in the government. The tangential implication in this context, of course, is that decision-making and problem-solving within an organisation can become dysfunctional without requisite levels of heterogeneity.
At the moment, nonetheless, there is still little public uncertainty. If perceived as an endeavour to improve its standing as the main opposition party in Singapore, it may therefore be useful for the WP to shed more light about recent developments and the way ahead.
After all, notwithstanding the controversy surrounding the former Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, criticisms some Singaporeans have had of the party is not only the lack of transparency – an issue which was reportedly raised during the elections too – but also the lack of meaningful contributions to broader policy issues, both in Parliament and within the wider community. In addition to clarifications of comments made by the different party members, a more coherent and substantive WP agenda could feature too.