Top 10 Misconceptions about Singapore Politics: Part I

#10 Singapore needs more “opposition”

We don’t need more “opposition”. We need more real politicians who can change things. Not people who just crack jokes and take digs at PAP at rallies and can’t do anything except “raise concerns”.

Singapore has more than 10 political parties. Frankly, what we need is less “opposition” parties and fewer but stronger parties to challenge the PAP hegemony.

Consolidation works in business, and it works in politics too. One must be prepared to strike strategic alliances and even merge with another party if one is serious about politics.

Apparently 37 seats were uncontested in 2006. RP says that it is a failure of democracy that not enough candidates could be found to step forward to contest in all constituencies so that people could exercise their democratic right to vote.

My view is different. Since more than 42 seats were contested, if all the other parties could have just formed a coalition, they could have challenged the PAP to form a Govt, and given them a run for their money.

The Electorate would then have a real choice– between a PAP govt and a coalition govt.

“Opposition” parties thus have a choice– fight individually, and if you succeed, enter Parliament as lone rangers. Or united and fight to take over the Govt.

I know there are personality conflicts and differences among the parties. But great men put such rivalries aside when faced with a great challenge.

Isn’t it better to be elected into power and then start squabbling about who becomes PM and who gets what cabinet post, rather than to be fighting for the scraps from the PAP’s table?

#9 Election deposits deter “opposition” candidates

The amount ($13,500) is small compared to the cost of mounting a viable election campaign, ie one where one has a serious chance of getting elected. And with Ready Credit, almost anyone can put up the amount.

The real deterrence to more “opposition” candidates is not the deposit. It’s the fear of libel action. The real challenge is setting up a viable campaign machinery, which requires $$$, supporters and dedication.

#8 The Political Donations Act works against “opposition” parties.

The Act prohibits accepting donations from foreigners, and requires parties to keep records of donors once donations exceed $5,000.

Hence some feel it cripples “opposition” parties’ ability to raise funds.

Unfortunately, the reality is that Singaporeans do not have a culture of giving to political parties, PAP or otherwise. So I don’t think the Act really matters at this time. We are not like America where corporates freely lobby politicians and parties and donate and hire lobbyists in Washington to advance their cause, and where private individuals donate regularly to the party of their choice.

Until such time as the culture of giving changes, parties will have to rely on their own funds, and that of friends and well-wishers. And if such friends or well-wishers refuse to be named, well– are they reliable friends or well-wishers?

Politicians and parties need to be creative in raising funds, such as selling merchandise at high prices, such as autographed books, memoirs and memorabilia by well-known politicians, selling D&D tickets for profit, etc.

#7 GRC’s are bad for the “opposition”.

Supposedly GRC’s were invented by the PAP to make life more difficult for “opposition” parties. Having to gather a group of up to six candidates, with at least one approved minority candidate to boot, is supposedly an unfair barrier for the smaller parties.

My take is completely different.

I think GRC’s benefit the smaller parties more than the PAP. They create economies of scale for campaigning– you can share the costs of posters, banners, rallies, etc. And the less-experienced candidates can tap on the experience of their well-blooded colleagues.

I actually think that an unknown “opposition” candidate in a GRC stands a better chance of getting elected compared to standing by himself against an illustrious PAP candidate in a SMC.

A GRC is a battle between two generals leading two armies. On the one side is the PAP minister and his lieutenants; on the other is the Chairman or Secretary General of the “opposition” party with his merry men.

Just like in business, where investors look at the strength of the CEO and assume that the CEO knows how to select his team.

Thus voters vote for the generals on both sides, not for the ordinary troops– unless one of those troops commits a faux pas that causes voters to lose confidence in the general.

Hence, GRC’s can be seen as single-candidate elections with a bigger prize to be won– up to six seats. The economies of scale in such a contest are likely better than one-on-one contests with PAP technocrat candidates, who can typically muster more funds and more party cadres than individual “opposition” candidates.

#6 “Opposition” parties must be “credible”

Or so says the PAP…. But has anybody thought of what “credibility” really means?

A far-sighted and visionary manifesto? Concrete policy proposals? Pedigree candidates?

Frankly, I don’t think the electorate cares too much about manifestos. Most people haven’t even read the PAP manifesto. Why would they bother to read the manifestos of “opposition” parties when they haven’t an arse’s chance of realising their manifestos?

Anyway, they’re all the same. Their vision is for Singapore to be more inclusive. More freedom. Human rights. Justice. Transparency. Etc. One can hardly distinguish one party manifesto from another. So no matter how visionary, the electorate knows such manifestos are just idle dreams until a party has enough seats in Parliament to form a govt.

Ditto policy proposals. No matter how brilliant their proposals, why should the electorate care if they can’t form a govt to carry out their policy proposals?

Pedigree candidates? That is so 20th century. Yes, we want smart candidates who can relate to people, but they do not need to be Presidents’ scholars. Look at the most successful opposition MP’s of the last 25 years. Chiam See Tong. Low Thia Kiang. JBJ. Certainly they were no Presidents’ scholars. Yet they’ve been in Parliament longer than most people have had a chance to vote.

Lets be clear about this. If your party doesn’t have enough candidates to form a govt, your manifesto, policy proposals and ideas are unimportant. The electorate is not stupid, they know no matter how many votes you get, you will not be able to effect any changes in Parliament. So if they vote for you, it’s because they hate the PAP or they like you. Not because of your brilliant policy proposals or moving manifesto.


About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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3 Responses to Top 10 Misconceptions about Singapore Politics: Part I

  1. Pingback: They Don’t Understand Political Donations | Political Writings

  2. Pingback: Are you “pro-opposition”? Or are you really rooting for PAP to change? | Political Writings

  3. Pingback: The 100: Top 10 Political Writings | Political Writings

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