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GE 2020: Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Singapore Democratic Party

General Election is upon us now and it’s time to get educated on the different political parties that will be contesting in the upcoming election.

Who are they? What do they stand for? What is their track record?

In this series, we will cover everything you need to know about the party so you can have a better understanding of what they’re about before you cast your votes.

Following our breakdown of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and Worker’s Party (WP), we’ll be looking at the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

A Quick History Of SDP

One of Singapore’s most popular opposition parties, SDP has fronted two icons on Singapore’s political scene: current Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan, and ex-leader Chiam See Tong.

First founded by Chiam in 1980, SDP’s initial successes rested on his popularity. Active on the political scene for over 40 years, Chiam captured Potong Pasir in GE1984 and the seat was held by SDP until GE1997.

In 1993, party infighting split SDP down the middle. The central executive committee was split between Chee and Chiam over a defamation scandal involving the PAP.

Chee accused the PAP of engineering his dismissal from the National University of Singapore, where he worked as a psychology lecturer.

Chiam wanted to censure Chee’s comments, but was outvoted by other party leaders. The opposition leader was availed of his Sec-Gen post and parliamentary seat, leaving SDP to join the newly formed Singapore People’s Party (SPP).

Until the General Election in 1997, SDP had held seats in Parliament.

Image Credits: Vulcan Post

In a meteoric rise to power, Chee was elected as the SDP’s Sec-Gen. Post-GE 1997 period, the SDP entered a decade long series of legal battles and public quarrels with the PAP.

In 2006, Chee Soon Juan was sued into bankruptcy by the PAP and ineligible for election until he was cleared of bankruptcy in 2015. The central executive committee of the SDP was also sued for defamation over an editorial on the National Kidney Foundation scandal.

The SDP then became the first political party to field a publicly gay candidate, Vincent Wijeysingha. However, Wijeysingha resigned from politics after being accused of pursuing a “gay agenda” by Vivian Balakrishnan during GE2011.

In 2017, SDP launched (and lost) a lawsuit against the PAP over the decision not to call for a by-election in the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC when PAP Halimah Yacob resigned to run for President.

What Do They Stand For?

SDP pursues a strong Singapore-first policy. Its mission is to reduce the cost of living, liberalise the Central Provident Fund System, prioritise Singaporeans in employment, and provide for the poor and give opportunities to youth. 

For the past two decades, the party has demonstrated left-leaning anti-establishment tendencies. The SDP organised rallies at Hong Lim Park during GE2011 and openly blasts the PAP for corruption and cronyism, despite the threat of litigation.

Image Credits: YourSDP

The SDP has also accused the PAP of criticising, then copying their policy proposals. This includes ending streaming in education by 2024, raising taxes on the top 5 per cent of earners, introducing minimum wage in the Progressive Wage Model, pooling national healthcare risks in Medishield Life and prioritising Singaporean workers in the “Fair Consideration Framework”.

For GE2020, the SDP has proposed policies aimed at protecting Singaporeans from the effects of Covid-19. RESTART, a joint insurance scheme entitles retrenched workers to 50 per cent of their last drawn salary for 18 months.

They are also proposing the RISE scheme for Singaporean elderly in the bottom 80 per cent, to receive a basic income of $500 a month, relieving families of the burden of supporting their parents.

SDP also opposes PAP’s alleged decision to raise the population in Singapore to $10 million in its “4 Yes 1 No” campaign. The PAP has accused the SDP of spreading misinformation about the $10 million population growth proposal, which was never officially promoted as government policy

What Do S’poreans Think About SDP?

Incorporating a phrase used by Singaporeans into their official mission, the SDP has willingly declared that they are “pah see bui zhao,” a phrase in the Fujian/Teochew dialect that means “you will never run even in the face of death”.

One of the most outspoken opposition groups in Singapore, SDP members often find themselves in court for flouting censorship laws or (allegedly) slandering PAP leaders.

Chee’s name has become synonymous with civil disobedience. The SDP leader has been fined, arrested, and sued for a number of reasons, including protesting without a license on a ban against Muslim headscarves at the Speakers corner.

SDP’s history of ousting Chiam has also earned them a poor reputation within the electorate, who viewed the incident as a betrayal of a beloved opposition icon.

Image Credits: Mothership

However, SDP retains significant support, as evidenced in the polls. The party’s outspoken and opinionated opposition to the PAP has become a permanent fixture on the political scene.

Past General Election Results

No SDP member has been elected to parliament since the 1997 elections, after Chiam’s ousting.

The SDP’s total vote share remained well below the national averages until a comeback in GE2011. SDP contested four electoral divisions and scored above the national average in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC at 39.92 per cent of the vote.

SDP’s electoral popularity has only increased since.

GE2015 marked Chee’s return to politics from bankruptcy. Under Chee’s leadership, the SDP contested five electoral divisions and polled above national average in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC at 30.14 per cent of the vote.  

Where Will They Be Contesting?

SDP will be contesting in 5 electoral divisions for GE2020, namely Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, Bukit Batok SMC, Bukit Panjang SMC, and Yuhua SMC.

Eight SDP candidates will be contesting in two teams of four against the PAP in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

In particular, ex-presidential candidate and SDP member Tan Jee Say will be up against Vivian Balakrishnan in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

Sec-Gen Chee Soon Juan will be campaigning against PAP Murali Pillai in Bukit Batok while three SDP members will be contesting as solo candidates in Bukit Batok SMC, Bukit Panjang SMC, and Yuhua SMC.

Disclaimer: Vulcan Post does not support or endorse any political parties.


Check out our GE 2020 microsite for the latest election-related news, find out which constituency you belong to, and who’s running where on the election battleground here.


Featured Image Credit: Singapore Democratic Party/Facebook

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