In Singapore, political opposition is rightly cut down to size

Holden Chow says voters' rejection of opposition candidates in the Singapore election in favour of stability is a lesson Hong Kong should heed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 10:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 10:52am

The Singapore general election marked a huge comeback for the People's Action Party (PAP), which won 83 of the 89 seats in parliament, securing over 69 per cent of the vote this time. That stands in stark contrast to 2011, when the votes for PAP dropped to 60 per cent. Clearly, Singaporeans decided to reward the PAP's hard work over the past few years.

Needless to say, voters in Singapore have long cherished the prosperity, social stability and accomplishments of the past five decades. As long as the PAP is responsive to public demands and delivers on its promises, there is no reason not to vote for it.

The opposition and government critics may try to make their case online but the electorate is very rational when casting their ballots. Beyond criticising, the opposition has very limited ability to successfully govern and many people, even youngsters, believe that opposition politicians could ruin Singapore if they came to share power.

To many Singaporeans, the role of the opposition ought to be limited to keeping the government on its toes. There are more than enough examples of governments being paralysed as a result of conflict between political parties, jeopardising the well-being of the public. Singaporeans have wisely shunned such traps, by collectively containing the role and power of the opposition. In this way, social stability is maintained, which is in the best interests of the state.

 A political system must be designed in accordance with the local features of any given jurisdiction. This applies to China too

I was impressed with the late Lee Kuan Yew every time he faced challenges from foreign correspondents about Singapore's refusal to follow Western values. Lee was able to rebut these challenges by explaining the dire consequences of blindly fitting the Western multiparty system to Singapore. A political system must be designed in accordance with the local features of any given jurisdiction. This applies to China too, with its complex population structure, and rich historical and cultural background. China must go its own way instead of copying Western political systems.

If riots similar to the Jasmine Revolution erupted throughout China, Hong Kong would suffer; its economy alone would be ruined, never mind the risk of chaos spreading to the city. By relentlessly slamming mainland China and calling for an overthrow of the central government, are the pan-democrats being responsible?

There are many things we could envy about Singapore, not least the fact there is no filibustering in its parliament. At the crux is the limited role of the opposition; Singaporeans have collectively chosen to empower the responsible ruling party and dismiss the opposition. As long as that conviction remains, the PAP can lead the country to thrive in the decades to come.

Holden Chow is vice-chairman of the DAB