Thursday, May 11, 2006

Singapore Election - Post Mortem

I was surprised to see a letter to the editor in the May 11, 2006 Straits Times which does an excellent job of summarizing the behaviour of the PAP that led to 33% of voters choosing the opposition.

Entitled "why 'people's hero' lost the hearts of 33% of voters", Jacob Tan Teck Lee zeroes in on the more questionable tactics of the PAP.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

Why 'people's hero' lost the hearts of 33% of voters

SINGAPORE'S history of nation-building is nothing short of spectacular. The PAP should be the people's hero, yet it lost the hearts of 33 per cent of voters, even in the Prime Minister's own GRC. Why?

The PM inadvertently revealed the dark side of the PAP when he said his focus would be to 'fix' the opposition and figure out how to 'buy' his support if the opposition won 10 or more seats, though he did subsequently say that his choice of the word 'fix' might have been too strong, and offered his apology if it had offended anyone.

However, it affirmed for many their uneasiness over the political tactics of the PAP over the years:

  • The morphing of the original GRCs from three MPs intended to guarantee minority representation to super-GRCs of up to six MPs (perceived as creating a barrier to entry for the opposition with their cartographical contortions and as a means of bringing in new, untested PAP candidates under the air cover of ministerial heavyweights).
  • The lawsuit (intended to safeguard the integrity of debate) seemed to have become extended into an ever-ready weapon of political dare-and-do. The PAP-Workers' Party dare-you-to exchange was especially grating to voters hungry for higher political discourse.
  • The conversion of HDB upgrading (one of our secrets for social stability) into the spectacle of which PAP MP can offer more money to their voters ($80 million here, $300 million there but to the almost-total exclusion of the candidate's own positions on national issues).

    It is not that the voters take the good work of the PAP for granted. Travel the world and you will know how much the PAP has done and is still doing for Singapore. The PAP deserves better. But only if it tears itself away from its dark electoral insecurities and rises to its historical role of nation-building.

    The PAP, as a political party, is not obliged to hand over its seats to the opposition. However, the PAP, as the Government, is a steward of our political process and it owes itself and Singapore, as the founding party and only governing party, to shepherd the political development to greater and more open political participation and not to political atrophy.

    Some suggestions for the PAP Government:

  • Eliminate super-GRCs and return to the original three-MP GRCs, not all of which need to be minority-represented if the 'minimal quota' is already reached. Smaller GRCs reduce the charge that GRCs are a means of letting in 'backdoor' MPs.
  • Maintain greater stability in electoral boundaries. While population shifts may necessitate changes, the PAP should stop the practice of moving wards around as jigsaw pieces to reconfigure weak GRCs/ SMCs and carve out new SMCs. With greater electoral stability, the opposition has a better chance to nurture their chosen constituencies with their more limited resources.
  • Stop focusing on individual-constituency HDB upgrading as the primary election platform of MPs. Today it seems we conduct town-council elections and get a national parliament as a by-product.

    It is the national policies of the PAP that have raised resource-scarce Singapore to First World standards. Let them be the PAP electoral showcase instead.

  • Lawsuits should be served when slander or libel is committed. They should not be part of the political lexicon of campaigning thrust-and-parry.

    The PAP has done so much for Singapore. It should be more confident of itself that it will continue to win the support of voters on its track record even when it loosens its grip on the political process. Indeed it will be more heartily supported.

    Jacob Tan Teck Lee

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