What is the #1 political problem in Singapore? Is it:
a. PAP’s leadership renewal/Search for next PM
b. Lack of a credible opposition
c. Political apathy and/or a climate of fear
d. Unfair playing field/GRC/Gerrymandering/Etc
I don’t think it’s any of the above at all. In my view, the #1 problem is a lack of understanding of politics.
50 years of PAP rule have made Singaporeans equate the Govt with PAP, and politics as PAP vs “opposition”. They can’t understand that there is a difference between PAP and Govt. They don’t understand that every party is (or should be) distinct and different, that they have (or should have) different beliefs and idealogies. They also can’t understand that all parties, including even the PAP, are equal before the Constitution, and that one should not elevate the PAP above other parties as if it was a given.
50 years of PAP rule have made Singaporeans either pro-PAP or anti-PAP. So people make remarks such as “Why did you join/vote for opposition?” as if the only reason they joined/voted for someone other than PAP is because they wanted someone in to oppose PAP.
50 years of PAP rule have made “opposition” parties unable to see themselves as anything other than “opposition”. They don’t even understand the purpose of politics any more. It has given them a loser’s mentality, where they think 25 years in opposition is a grand achievement, getting an NCMP seat is a very credible result, and that it’s ok to lose to PAP as long as they don’t lose their electoral deposit.
Begone, you demons of political stupidity!
Let it be known that:
a. Each and every political party is distinct and different. Parties are not here just to be “opposition”.
Stop calling yourselves “opposition”! If you have no seat in Parliament, you’ve no right to call yourself Opposition anyway! You are RP, SDP, SF, NSP, whatever. You are NOT “opposition” if you can’t cast a vote of No-Confidence against the Govt in the House.
b. Elections are not about PAP’s leadership renewal or searching for the next PM.
This is PAP’s head getting swollen, which the Press dutifully reports and dares not question. Elections are simply a way for voters to decide who they want to form the next Govt. Who cares about what PAP’s priorities are?
PAP’s leadership renewal, or even WP’s leadership renewal, is their own problem. Similarly, the next PM will be the leader of the party or coalition that wins the next election. Finding him is not a problem at all. I’m sure many capable men would step forward for $3m+ per year.
c. Singapore’s future does not depend on PAP’s leadership renewal, but upon building an effective political system.
Note that this is not about “checks and balances”, as some “opp” politicians seem to think. In economics, we say a perfect market exists when buyers and sellers can access all relevant information, demand and supply are well-matched and no buyer/seller has undue market power to set prices. Checks and balances would simply aim to convert today’s political situation, which is essentially a monopoly by PAP, into a quasi-monopoly. A real effective political system would be like a perfect market where voters can exercise their choices with perfect information and parties have no power to set prices (ie hold voters hostage).
d. While the PAP is currently in power, the Govt is NOT the PAP as a matter of course, and certainly the PAP is not the Govt by default.
Don’t confuse what the PAP does vs what the Govt does vs what PAP MP’s do. PAP does not get any advantages over other parties. Just like other parties, for example, PAP does not get permits to speak or assemble or demonstrate. However, Govt ministers do– and that is a privilege accorded to the Govt, not to the PAP.
e. 25 years in opposition is nothing to be proud of. It means your party has never won an election in 25 years!
Don’t embarrass yourself talking about the “beacon” of opposition or keeping the flame of opposition burning in Singapore. Nobody goes into politics with the intention of burning anything other than their political opponents. Figuratively at the polls, of course.
f. There is no such thing as a “credible” opposition. There are only credible parties, or non-credible parties.
This follows from a above. PAP has been thumbing down you guys for the last 50 years and you’ve swallowed the “credible opposition” insult for the last 50 years. Wake up!
g. Climate of fear I understand, and we can blame on PAP, in fact on specific individuals within PAP. Apathy is different.
In other countries, apathy occurs because voters are disillusioned, they feel their vote can’t change anything, they’ve been lied to too many times, they don’t trust politicians any more.
In Singapore, apathy happens for some of the same reasons– voters feel their votes can’t change anything, we always end up with PAP govt anyway. Well, 2011 is a great time to change this, if all 87 seats are to be contested. Yet somehow, I don’t think we’ll have anyone challenging PAP to form the next Govt. So how can things change? And why should people not continue to be apathetic, in the face of such a disunited, lacklustre and unambitious “opposition”?