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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 2:36pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

The lesson of the Singapore election

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 4:14am

Singapore's governing People's Action Party is soul-searching as to how it could have lost another election to the opposition Worker's Party of Singapore. Saturday's by-election defeat, the second in less than a year, on top of its worst-ever general poll showing in 2011, leaves it with 80 of the 87 elected seats in parliament. The party, having dominated politics for more than half a century, is unfamiliar with losing, so is bound to put its campaign strategy under the microscope. But as much as there is a temptation to try to win back what has been lost, its energies would be more wisely directed towards how to better serve a more demanding electorate.

The ruling party thought it had done all that was necessary to win, promising policy reforms and massive public spending in the lead-up to polling day. Theories abound as to how its candidate, a noted surgeon, could have lost to a middle-class corporate trainer. Perhaps it was due to a lack of political experience, insufficient campaign preparedness or a perception of elitism. Or maybe the hot Singapore issues of housing, immigration, transport congestion and the soaring cost of living were the main reasons.

Authorities are well aware of growing discontent, especially among young voters. They have moved aggressively to cool property prices, bolster social protections and limit the number of low-skilled foreign workers. But the fast-ageing population brings significant challenges, while policies, such as providing affordable housing, take time to implement.

Policies have to be formulated with consensus in mind. Plans unveiled yesterday to beat the low birth rate and maintain growth by attracting tens of thousands of foreign professionals and granting them permanent residency have caused controversy. If successful, it will swell the population by 30 per cent by 2030, cutting the proportion of native Singaporeans from 62 to 55 per cent. Such a dramatic change requires much debate and opposition politicians have a key role.

The Achilles' heel of Singapore's political system is the lack of a strong opposition party. Effective and credible alternative voices in parliament would ensure that those in power are better attuned and more responsive to the needs of the people. Singaporeans are not clamouring for a change in power, nor is the opposition yet prepared or ready to take it. The PAP would do well to view the by-election loss as an opportunity for improvement rather than a disaster.

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uc1234567890
The PAP is in terminal decline.
When the 90 years old Lee Kuan Yew who is ailing finally dies, the infighting within the PAP would help it to implode. The voters of Singapore are painfully aware of the self serving policies of the PAP and their approach to Meritocracy seems to be very limited to their own Elites. And buying loyalties with big salaries and directors fees is not a solution when push comes to shove.
kazu.nagai.7
the achilles heel of many so-called democratic system elsewhere is that opposition parties spend too much time opposing?
Has the duopolistic system in the US led to better policies? No. It has resulted in policy paralysis.
Same in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
Let's not get to simplistic here.
If the dominance of the PAP has been so authoritarian, would Singapore be where she is today.
Often dubbed as the most competitive economy in the world? A key global hub of business, finance and trade?
One of the highest GDP per capita in the world?
And with a public housing ownership scheme that is the envy of many, including HK.
And of course, with an air quality that we would gladly breathe.
Checks and balances to good policy making need not be in the form of OPPOSITION and POPULIST politiking.
It's about integrity and doing the right thing.
And of course, unlike in HK, if the people feel the govt is not doing the right thing, they can vote out the govt.
Yet time and again, the PAP gets returned to power.
Do you think the PAP crafts policies in isolation without considering this reality?

RobinDeCaro
PRIMITIVE,BARBARIC DEMOCRACY NOT THE NORM
Kazu.nagai.7 you notice these:
1.fighting in the law making processes
2.president committed suicide,president jailed
3.policies debates turn sour....personal attacks....abusive languages....violence...indecent activities
4.triad activities related election
Disguised democracy not the world's norm.Deformed democracy not the norm.
RobinDeCaro
Kazu.nagai.7 your simple math is suppresion of human rights breeds economic prosperity and vice versa.Remember the US is STILL a superpower with the world's biggest GDP;if you put economic development above of any achievement ought to be sought.It's not a matter of life or death between human rights and such.
uc1234567890
Singapore political awakening is a very recent matter.
The typical Singaporeans who voted for the opposition were in pain inflicted by the PAP and as such, the PAP thinks they can win these recent non-PAP voters back.
However, the trend to vote against PAP is increasing and the PAP will have a very hard time in the 2016 General Elections.
pslhk
Canary Wharf
is
the world’s
Biggest and only authentic
pirates hole.
whymak
"The Achilles' heel of Singapore's political system is the lack of a strong opposition party. Effective and credible alternative voices in parliament would ensure that those in power are better attuned and more responsive to the needs of the people."
Only one strong opposition party? Maybe 10 strong parties opposing one another are even better. Is this a strawman proposition or a dogma of the Democracy religion?
Statement like this won't pass muster of freshman philosophy.
megafun
Singapore is not really a multi-party city-state, is it? Besides, their "migrant" workers are treated more like slaves! Such a society is NOT one that can be fair and just - which may be the reason for its economic / commercial expansions in recent years. A true pirates' hole again!

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