With the pap’s love of parachuting ‘potential ministers’ straight into Parliament via grc’s, would a Presidential system serve both the pap and the people of Singapore better?
I can’t find the quote now, but I recall lky said grc’s helped the pap bring in potential office holders who were otherwise reluctant to step forward because they had to stand for election with no certainty of winning. Just like what happened to mah bow tan when he lost embarrassingly to cst in 1984, if I might add.
But my take on this is not so much about how such office holders are unworthy because they get into Parliament by a ‘back door’, as some ‘opposition’ supporters love to grumble. It is to recognize that perhaps a Presidential system may serve pap better. And Singapore too, for that matter.
Under such a system, only the President is elected. He nominates anyone he wants to his Cabinet, subject to confirmation by the congress. In other words, he is the politician who is elected and accountable to the people, while the ministers are his appointees, who serve at his pleasure.
It should work very well for pap because all these top civil servants, scholars and private sector head honchos they love to parachute into office aren’t politicians and really don’t want to be. That’s why they aren’t in the pap youth wing already. That’s why they have to organize so many tea sessions to find them and convince them to take up a party membership. And that’s why they have to bring them in via a grc.
If we had a presidential system, there’d be no need for all this. LHL could run for president, and if he wins, he could appoint anyone to be his ministers. Thus he could appoint the very best man for each cabinet position, and not just those he can ‘persuade’ to “enter politics”. None of these guys would have to surrender their souls to the pap by taking up a membership, so a lot of tea would be saved.
None of the cabinet appointees would have to claim to be interested in grassroots work or worry about awkward meet the people sessions. Nor would they have to kiss babies or shake hands. Best of all, they wouldn’t need to worry about election or re-election, all they have to do is be good at what they do, whether it is transport, defence or home affairs. No one would have to worry about losing his job thru no fault of his own, like George Yeo. And LHL would not have to guard against the possibility of a cabinet coup, since none of the cabinet would have any mandate from the people. How much better can it get for pap?
Such a system would also address some peoples’ desire for checks and balances against the pap, which would be enhanced if the House was switched to a proportional representation system. In a parliamentary system, mp’s of the ruling party cannot effectively check the govt because it is career suicide for them to oppose their own party leaders. No one who ever hopes to be called into cabinet will risk criticizing their pm or his cabinet colleagues publicly. Further, any dissent among the back bench can spark a motion of no confidence, which can have dramatic consequences. Thus it is usual for ruling party mp’s to close ranks on motions as long as the govt is stable.
This does not occur in a presidential system. Mp’s have to win election on their on merits, which means they must oppose whatever the president proposes if it is not in their voters’ interests. Of course, mp’s still have to watch out for their party’s majority in the House, and they still have a party whip to answer to. But they know they will definitely lose their seat if they do not oppose something their voters don’t want. They also know that defeating a piece of legislation does not mean that the govt will be dismissed thru a motion of no confidence and possibly fresh elections called. Hence, they can be more effective as checks and balances.
Overall, I think such a system will potentially serve pap and possibly Singapore much better. Pap backbenchers have little hope of being called into cabinet anyway, since the party leadership prefers to parachute ‘ministerial calibre’ candidates into office via grc’s instead of promoting loyal backbenchers. On the other hand, rather than wasting so much tea convincing people who aren’t politicians in the first place to join pap, a presidential system would allow pap to install anyone they want as ministers. The people can get a House that can truly check on the executive. And if there is proportional representation on the house, even ‘opposition’ supporters should be happy. Isn’t this a wonderful win-win solution for all?