What Level Playing Field?

The term “level playing field” is often used wrongly in Singapore politics, just like the term “opposition party”.

The term “level” really means the rules apply to all parties equally and thus all parties have the same chance to win, although we know in real life some competitors will always be stronger than others.

Technically, the rules are the same for all parties in Singapore: same election deposits, same GRC reqmts, same restrictions on donations, same limits on political videos, same permit requirements for rallies, etc.

So PAP says the field is “level”.

When parties other than the PAP ask for a “level” playing field, what they’re really asking for is an “easier” playing field, ie less election deposits, no GRC’s, no restrictions on foreign donations, etc.

And the reason they’re asking for this is because these parties are small and weak, thus they can’t compete with PAP when all these rules are in place.

What they fail to see is the what they need to do to take on the PAP, given the rules of the game here.

It’s not that the rules are “unfair” per se. So what if it is? PAP is not going to change them for you, no matter how much you cry-father-cry-mother.

It’s that the rules favour viable, genuine political competition.

Not kuching-kurak parties trying to win a seat here and there to get into opposition. But a genuine two-party system, with a party equal in stature and size to the PAP and willing and able to challenge it for power.

Yet instead of reading the writing on the wall and engaging in M+A, “opp” parties and their supporters go on and on about the unlevel playing field because their small little parties can’t fight the PAP under the current rules.

Yes, that’s absolutely right. If a flyweight takes on a super heavyweight in boxing and gets knocked out in Round 1, does he complain that the playing field is not level? Or does he accept that he shouldn’t be fighting a heavyweight, and he goes away to bulk up?

Businessmen accept these market realities. They don’t complain that the playing field is level, just because the competition is so much bigger, just because Microsoft is the 800-lb gorilla.

They do M+A.

I work in the exchange business where there’s a lot M+A going on. As you know, SGX is buying ASX, LSE wants to buy TSX and now Deutsche Borse wants to buy NYSE.

The CEOs all read the writing on the wall and they know they must grow bigger to survive. Without merging, they know they won’t be able to stand up to much larger competitors, and that no amount of complaining about unfair playing fields will help.

Shouldn’t our “opp” leaders quit bickering and do M+A so that they can put forth, as a single party/coalition running on a single ticket, at least 50 candidates so that they can challenge PAP for the right to form a Govt?

Why can’t they join forces to combat the PAP? It’s not basic idealogy or political philosophy which separates political parties here.

If you analyse the manifestos of all the other parties in Singapore, they all say the same thing: less govt intervention in the market, more subsidies for the needy, more freedom, etc.

It’s scary how similar the other political parties are in Singapore. So this begs the question: why form so many tribes when they are essentially genetically so similar?

To make the point very clear: a small country like Singapore does not need 10 or 20 political parties. The market is too small, simple as that. If people want to be niche players, that’s their choice. But from a marketers’ perspective and as a strategist, I’ve to say it’s the wrong choice.

Especially given the rules of the game in Singapore, which aren’t going to change any time soon.

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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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9 Responses to What Level Playing Field?

  1. Clarence says:

    you harp too long on the “level playing field” issue. It’s a complaint from them, but the opposition parties still go on their walkabouts and garnering of support in the heartlands despite this issue. They didn’t go “this playing field is unlevel, i just want to talk about it all day long and not play on it”.

    and for a party to grow to the size of PAP given these conditions, wait long long…

    but you are right at the current unity of the opposition. from the general view, it is too fragmented with individual parties’ ideals.

  2. Thanks. I don’t need a party the same size as pap. I just need one party to field 50 seats on one ticket. If the “opp” can claim to contest all 87 seats this election, then there’s enough of them to run for 50 seats together, if they will fight on the same ticket.

  3. Pingback: Daily SG: 25 Mar 2011 « The Singapore Daily

  4. anon says:

    The opposition is fragmented by plants and moles in their midst.
    They should purge themselves of these infiltrators in the payroll of the govt party.

  5. PSD says:

    If you see a contest between 2 boxers where one boxer is forced to tie one arm behind his back, do you waste your time arguing about the fairlness of the referee decision?

    Level playing field here does not mean lower deposits etc.

    It means that there should be fair representation of the views of the opposition parties in the mass media. It means there should not be total control of the mass media by the ruling party. It means that there should not be intimidation or jailing of your political opponents. It means an independent judiciary. It means that state funds should not be used to further the interests of a particular political party (P.A., CDCs, etc).

  6. Thanks for your comments.

    Notwithstanding that the Govt (as differentiated from the PAP) dominates the media, I don’t think the media has been grossly unfair to other parties. Eg would be the full page coverage given to KJ, the front page coverage given to WP’s four new CEC members, Zaobao’s full page coverage for LTK, etc.

    However, you cannot expect the media to praise or support the other parties, they can only report, not comment either positively or negatively.

    Intimidation and jailing was an LKY thing, but we have not seen that since LHL took over. Indeed, even Dr Chee has never been jailed under ISA.

    I disagree with you on the independent judiciary part. I believe the judiciary is ok, but the laws are unfair.

    CSJ often makes political speeches in Court asking judges to uphold his right for freedom of assembly, but he can’t see that judges are there to only interpret the law, not uphold his political ideals.

    If it is an offence to demonsrate without a permit, it’s an offence– no amt of political soeeches in courtrooms can change that. And a judge cannot rule in his favour, no matter how hard CSJ pleads.

    How can one say the judiciary is not independent when any reasonable observer would conclude that the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt?

    The libel laws are unfair, and the damages awarded are too high. The assembly laws, speech laws, etc are also unfair. ISA is also unfair.

    When one is prosecuted under such laws, one shld be very clear– is it the law that’s unfair, or is it the judges who are unfair. In recent years, I do not see any reasons to believe the judiciary is unfair. Even the Shadrake case– under the framework of the law in Singapore, it is reasonable to conclude that Shadrake’s book made unjustified allegations against the judiciary.

    I don’t agree PA, CDC serve the interests of PAP. They serve the interests of the govt. The two are not the same. But what are the things PA and CDC do that you think furthers the interests of PAP? Repeat, PAP, not the Govt.

    In fact, I’m surprised you didn’t mention RC’s. That’s the one that PAP MP’s leverage on the most. I don’t know if RC’s are funded using state funds or PAP funds though.

    Notwithstanding the above, my point is that parties should consolidate to challenge the PAP. Even if you’re fighting with one arm tied behind your back, you shld fight the enemy together, not separately.

  7. Mandy says:

    politicalwritings,
    hey, really sorry if it mean to offend but I find your thought as distorting as PAP.

    “I don’t think the media has been grossly unfair to other parties. Eg would be the full page coverage given to KJ, the front page coverage given to WP’s four new CEC members, Zaobao’s full page coverage for LTK, etc.”

    If it has been fair then the same amount of attention should be balanced across all parties after all everyone in opp parties pay tax money to fund media, shitty newspaper too (Fair enough if you say life is unfair. If so, let’s not talk about fairness anymore). The very fact that the newspaper is partisan towards the ruling party (do we still need prove to show that ?) show that there is very subtle unfairness here. It is not only unfair to opp parties, it is also unfair to the public who pay tax money too to fund those shitty media as the opp party represents the voice of the public as much as the ruling party .

    “However, you cannot expect the media to praise or support the other parties, they can only report, not comment either positively or negatively.”

    That’s strange. Why can’t we expect the media to treat the opp party the same way they treat PAP ? Unless you agree that the media is partisan towards PAP. Just because we cannot expect it doesn’t mean we should just accept it especially our national pledge says equality.

    “Intimidation and jailing was an LKY thing, but we have not seen that since LHL took over. Indeed, even Dr Chee has never been jailed under ISA.”

    The mean to intimidate and jailing is different for LHL because he is more coward than his father, but the end result is still the same as LKY. Why should we wait for ISA to jail Chee when the world with internet already start watching Singapore ? Can’t we see that even the most stupid clowns will use alternate way to achieve their objective ?

    “If it is an offence to demonsrate without a permit, it’s an offence– no amt of political soeeches in courtrooms can change that. And a judge cannot rule in his favour, no matter how hard CSJ pleads.”

    Oh yes, if it is a offence to even blog about politics thing that disgrace the ruling party, will you consent to that and continue to blog ? A judge cannot rule ? They doesn’t need to rule favour because they already prove themselves kangaroo judges when they approve of kangaroo law.

    “How can one say the judiciary is not independent when any reasonable observer would conclude that the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt?”

    Seriously, I don’t really understand why you even need to prove anything dealing with kangaroo court ? How can judiciary be independent when the chief justice is himself a corrupted person who obey PAP and not universal rule of Law ? Or do I need to tell you how the chief justice rule in past election ?

    “Repeat, PAP, not the Govt.”
    That even strange. Didn’t a MP once says “PAP govt” ? Or did I need to tell you which PAP MP says that ? Ideally the govt is not ruling party, and ruling party is not govt. Yes, ideally. But why should we live in the ideal world and argue as though it is ideal when it is not the reality ?

    “Notwithstanding the above, my point is that parties should consolidate to challenge the PAP. Even if you’re fighting with one arm tied behind your back, you shld fight the enemy together, not separately.”
    Finally something I can agree with you .

    • Thanks for your comments.

      1. You are mistaken, tax dollars do not fund the media, other than the stupid radio/tv licence to fund minority programs. SPH is a big money spinner, why would they need tax money?

      2. I said the media does not support or criticise political parties generally, and that is how the game is played here. Unlike in the US or UK where each paper has a known political affiliation, op-eds often criticise politicians and parties, and late-night talk shows will make fun of politicians, this just does not exist in Singapore. So don’t expect this from Singapore.

      They generally don’t praise the PAP either, when they do praise it is more often praising govt policy, or quoting ministers who are praising themselves. Again, praising govt is not the same as praising PAP– you got to get the distinction clear.

      As I mentioned, PAP the party gets no special privileges– they have to queue to apply for rally permits like everyone else, they don’t get permits to assemble or to speak outdoors, they have to obey political donations act, etc.

      3. Don’t know what alternate ways you’re talking about. But the fact that so many young educated people stepping forward to challenge the PAP in this election disproves your assertion.

      4. You are mistaken, judges do not approve laws, it’s not their job. Please get your understanding of executive, parliament and judiciary correct. If you don’t, you’ll still be complaining 50 years from now.

      5. Like most Singaporeans you’ve been brought up to think PAP = ruling party = govt. That is most surely not the case. Please get your understanding of executive, parliament and judiciary correct. If you don’t, you’ll still be complaining 50 years from now.

  8. Aloysius says:

    Why can’t they join forces to combat the PAP? It’s not basic idealogy or political philosophy which separates political parties here.

    If you analyse the manifestos of all the other parties in Singapore, they all say the same thing: less govt intervention in the market, more subsidies for the needy, more freedom, etc.

    Correct. What divides them, then, is the personalities of the opposition politicians. In theory more parties = more choices for the voter, so that he can pick the one which he prefers best. Since all the opposition parties are so similar in their broad themes, it is hard for the voter to differentiate them, except by their personalities.

    Hence I think 3-way fights in the coming elections shouldn’t be seen as a sign of opposition disunity or whatever, instead, it can lead to an outcome of consolidation, which you allude to in your M&A example.

    For example, in Radin Mas, the PAP, SDA, RP and NSP might be clashing against one another. Out of the 4, if the worst loser also has similar losses elsewhere, perhaps it should consider differentiating itself more, or simply bowing out of politics, because clearly voters do not know them or have rejected them.

    We’ve to depend on S’poreans – ourselves – to see which party which we keep or reject.

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