What a Leader of the Opposition Does in Other Countries & How S’pore is Going to be Different Soon

Whether you support the people in white or people in blue, you’ve got to admit that this year’s election has created history for the opposition.

Other than garnering a whopping 38.76% of the vote share, one of the opposition parties, the Workers’ Party, also won 10 seats, comprising one SMC and two GRCs—the first in history.

But if you thought that you can finally withdraw your CPF monies like it’s your POSB savings account or that GST is finally being reduced to 1%, hold your horses: the ruling party PAP still has a supermajority with 83 out of 93 seats, so technically, they’re still the Government with lots of control over our policies.

Though a shadow might be coming; read on.

In fact, if you think about it, there’s no difference in Parliament, the place whereby laws are voted in; with the NCMP scheme, there will always be 12 opposition party members even if none of them is voted in. The only difference is that out of these 12 members, 10 are voted in instead of getting in through the NCMP scheme.

After all, an NCMP has the same voting rights as other MPs. You can watch this video to understand more:

However, after the election, PM Lee said that Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh will be formally appointed the Leader of the Opposition.

This is when your head feels itchy and you go, “Wait, I thought Low Thia Khiang has been the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ since, like, 1819?”

Well, no: take note of the words “formally appointed”.

You see, there was no formality before this election: back in 1992, when the opposition presence in Parliament was starting to form, Mr Chiam See Tong, who was then with the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), was referred to as the “unofficial leader of the opposition”, and was given a seat directly opposite the Prime Minister in Parliament.

That is why you can sometimes see an opposition party (usually Low Thia Khiang then Pritam Singh) member in the background when an MP is talking about important stuff like whether ice-cream and desserts taste better than Traditional Chinese Medicine.

But Mr Low wasn’t happy with just the term, who famously said this after his team won the first GRC in Singapore’s history: “Either you have a leader of the opposition, or you do not have it. There’s no need to have an unofficial leader of the opposition.”

Have you just started to miss Mr Low le?

Image: gipfy

Technically speaking, a Leader of the Opposition is a formal title bestowed on the leader of the largest minority party which is able and prepared to assume office in the event that the Government resigns.

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Kind of like what you see in Designated Survivor, though it’s a tad different as for that, as an officeholder is appointed the head of state when all other officeholders are wiped out due to…erm, an attack.

According to PM Lee, Mr Singh isn’t just given a title and a good seat in Parliament as the Leader of the Opposition: he’ll also be given the staff support and resources to carry out this role.

PM Lee had said, “I told Mr Singh that with 10 MPs, I think it is right that he, the Workers’ Party leader, be formally designated as the Leader of the Opposition, and that he will be provided with appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties.”

So what duties is he referring to?

And how much resources would he be getting? Would he also get a white Volvo car? Or is it a Mercs now? Would he have security guards in tuck-out short-sleeved shirts around him, too?


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Last night, former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong provided more context, though he didn’t say if it’s going to be a Volvo or a Mercedes.

He said in a Facebook post that this move is a “very significant move.” While he didn’t specifically list down the role of a Leader of the Opposition, he did acknowledge that the opposition members would now have to “go beyond merely serving as a check-and-balance” and should “put forward their alternative policies and solutions so that Singaporeans would know the choices available besides the government’s.”


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Here’s his post:

If you’re a tad confused, here’s an example: maybe somewhere down the road, the Government decides to up the GST to 90%, and lists down the reasons why they have to do it (e.g. one of which is to save bubble tea shops). We all cry but couldn’t do anything, and opposition parties could’ve just opposed the move…and that’s it.

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The opposition should now do more beyond just opposing; instead, they should provide other policies and solutions. If Singapore really needs the money to save bubble tea shops, they can come out with a system to increase the ERP rate by 30,000%—if the calculation is done correctly, bubble tea shops can still survive and GST remains at 7%.

But you’re here to know more about the Leader of the Opposition, and while there’s no confirmation on the next point, it would be interesting if it does occur.


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Leader of the Opposition in Other Countries

Lest you’re not aware, the Singapore parliamentary system is modelled after the Westminster system in Britain.

In the UK, the Leader of the Opposition doesn’t just have his MP allowance; instead, he’s also entitled to a salary.

And the Leader doesn’t just go to Parliament and debate; instead, he’ll also have his own Cabinet Ministers, though they’re called “Shadow Ministers”.

To show you the UK system will be too chim and too un-Goody Feed, so let’s use an example in Singapore.

For example, the Leader can appoint Nicole Seah as the Shadow Education Minister. Ms Seah won’t be paid extra, nor would she be following Ong Ye Kung whenever he goes. Instead, Ms Seah would be following Mr Ong’s policies very closely.


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If Mr Ong decided to remove O-Level and A-Level completely, and let students go to universities based on their IPPT results, Ms Seah should think whether the opposition agrees or disagrees. If she disagrees, the opposition should come out with an alternate policy or solution: how about using NAPFA results instead of IPPT results instead?

Only the Leader would be paid a salary—the shadow ministers won’t be paid, if not our GST is indeed going to be 90%.

Of course, this is based on other countries’ system; it doesn’t mean it’ll apply to Singapore. We’d know soon enough.

But do you know that in Canada, the Leader of the Opposition draws the same pay and protection as a Cabinet minister, while in New Zealand, the Leader is paid “a special salary by virtue of the office”?

It’s unknown if it’ll be the same in Singapore, but is it just me, or did Mr Goh’s Facebook post suddenly makes a lot more sense after knowing about this ah?


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