It seems some political parties are still spending a significant amount of their time calling for democratic reforms and human rights, eg to be allowed to demonstrate freely anywhere, more press freedom, to be able to speak freely without fear of libel suits, repeal of S377A, ISA, etc.
Are they sure that is a good use of their time? And are they sure that’s what the electorate wants from them and of them?
If we were like Myanmar, democratic reform and human rights would be a precondition to even be able to participate in an election.
But we are not Myanmar. As far as I can see, while there are people who decry Singapore’s restrictions on press freedom, peaceful demonstrations, freedom of speech etc, that is not the key decision factor for the majority when it comes to choosing a new Govt.
In fact, I would even say that the majority of the electorate are comfortable with the status quo. After all, people can protest at Hong Lim Park— and they have done so quite frequently in the last few months. The majority of people likely do not want to see huge crowds with protest banners sweeping through Shenton Way, stopping traffic and paralysing commerce— even if the protest is entirely peaceful and without incident.
As for freedom of the press, I think the educated majority take what the mainstream media writes with a pinch of salt. They know they have alternative reports from online media that they can read if they want to see a non-‘official’ view. They are also well-aware that social media has greatly limited the PAP’s control of information, and that the mainstream media cannot depart too far from the truth without losing credibility.
Ditto for other issues.
All in all, I would say that the cost-benefit analysis for political parties pursuing further democratic reform is negative, as far as getting into Parliament is concerned.
What political parties need to do, if they are serious about changing Singapore, is to appeal to ordinary Singaporeans. Most importantly, they have to attract bright and capable people to join their ranks. They don’t need ranks full of Presidents’ Scholars– but they do need to fill their ranks with decent, presentable and well-educated candidates, the kind of guys you would be comfortable to bring home to meet your parents if you’re dating.
Right now the impression some parties give is that their ranks are filled with people who have axes to grind against the PAP. Ex-ISA detainees, bankrupts (both discharged and undischarged), ‘civil’ society activists, etc. All of whom give the impression they are driven by anger or by their own pet causes. Which could perhaps explain why they keep pressing an agenda of reform and human rights.
While their motivations and causes may resonate with voters who are totally anti-PAP, it is doubtful that this is enough to send them into Parliament, much less win voters’ trust to turn over the running of the country to such people.
If they really want to win, they have to rid their ranks of such people and devote ALL their attention to bread and butter matters. As Clinton once said, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
The people want to vote for people who can run a town council, for a Govt whom they can trust to run the economy. Not for someone who keeps talking about freedom of speech or repealing S377A.
The most important task for political parties is recruitment, to bring in committed and capable people whom they can present to the electorate as the next Finance Minister, the next Law Minister and the next Prime Minister.
If they can’t invite potential candidates to tea like the PAP, at least spend more time knocking on their doors—even after repeated rejections—and keep trying to recruit these people. Without having the right people on their team, all calls for democratic reform are a waste of time, for they’ll never get elected into Parliament.
As LKY once said, “Who is your Defence Minister? Who is your Finance minister? Who is your Prime Minister? Without these people, you can’t call yourself a credible opposition.”
Spend time on recruitment, not on fighting for democratic reform.
Aim at the right target.