Deadlock bogeyman

Like in elections past, the People’s Action Party (PAP) is once again trundling out an old bogeyman. It goes by slightly different names from year to year, but it’s the same guy. In the 2006 election campaign, it was called the “fix-the-opposition” bogeyman, after Lee Hsien Loong said that if there were more than the barest minimum of opposition party members in parliament, he would not be able to govern, since he would have to spend time thinking up ways to “fix” the opposition. Singapore would then go down the chutey.

This year, old bogey has been renamed “Deadlock”. The message is the same, though: if the PAP does not have a sweeping victory, there will be deadlock in parliament and Singapore will grind to a halt.

Old bogey emerged very soon after the Workers’ Party unveiled its key message: Singapore needs to vote significant numbers of opposition members into parliament if we are ever to acquire the security of an alternative government-in-waiting should the PAP one day flounder. This message has since been distilled into the catchphrase: A First-World parliament.

Immediately, the PAP declared that in this respect, Singapore must remain Third World. The First World is a very scary place. There, legislatures are in gridlock, governments do not function. How then these countries managed to reach first-world status in economic, technological and social development, is a mystery left unexplained.

Indranee Rajah (PAP Tanjong Pagar) had a letter published in the Straits Times Forum, designed to scare the daylights out of voters:

On the other hand, there are numerous examples of multi-party legislatures stuck in gridlock and engaged in political theatre, while governance, the economy and the people suffer.

[snip]

If the WP really only wants to speak up in Parliament and question government policies, and act as a check on the Government, then the Non-Constituency MP scheme provides for exactly that. But in truth, the WP wants more MPs in Parliament to form a base for greater electoral success in the future.

They will act as a bloc to bargain with the Government. They will also seek to block constitutional amendments – thereby again preventing effective governance. Ms Lim has said as much publicly.

[snip]

The result? Policies which would benefit the people cannot get passed. Many thoughtful American observers lament that this is happening in the US right now. In reality, the WP’s vision is a ‘Fictional World Parliament’.

— Letter by Indranee Rajah, Straits Times Forum, 19 April 2011.

Taking the cue, other fearful citizens penned their own letters to the newspaper. This one for example:

A two-party system can lead to an inefficient system of government where ideological differences result in an impotent Parliament (‘WP’s fictional First World Parliament’ by People’s Action Party MP Indranee Rajah’; yesterday).

I firmly oppose Western-style two-party systems, but we must define the system of democracy we want by being selective of MPs.

[snip]

It is not desirable to have an antagonistic opposition whose main aim is to prevent the functioning of government.

I hope Singapore’s system can evolve so that the opposition serves to provide valuable input on policies in the public interest – and that such input will be seriously considered by the Government instead of being dismissed out of hand.

— Letter by Chua Sheng Yang, Straits Times Forum, 20 April 2011.

There are so many logical fallacies in these two letters, I hardly know where to begin. In any case, I can’t deal with all, so let me pick three.

Chua’s point that opposition parties should not be “antagonistic” (he refers to such as “western-style”) is just unthinking subservience, revealing no understanding of what democracy is about. He has no trust at all in the contest of ideas as an engine of development. Furthermore, his remarks reveal his perspective as that of a subject looking up to a monarch — a point I raised in the recent article Electing movers of pleas. He merely wants opposition parties to timidly proffer suggestions to help the king refine his policies, always settling for second-best in an unchanging order under heaven.

While Chua may be misguided, Rajah is so slick, she is dangerous. Did you notice the statement, “Policies which would benefit the people cannot get passed”?

Hold on a minute. Do all government policies and proposed laws “benefit the people”? Might it not be to the greater good that some hare-brained schemes and bills are blocked, or at least highlighted by opposition parties in robust debate so that the average citizen gets a chance to understand the risks and consequences of new laws? Isn’t it more risky to give the PAP a free pass to push through any and every law (and constitutional amendment) they want, via a supermajority in parliament?

And coming back to Chua, why would a government take on board any opposition party’s alternative ideas? In his scheme of things — a static order under heaven — it costs a government nothing to completely ignore the proffered ideas and suggestions from the grovelling opposition.

The only time a government will take alternative ideas seriously is if they know they will pay the price  if their own ideas don’t work out. And that price, in politics, is to be booted out of office. It’s just like any worker. If he knows he’ll lose his job if he performs badly and refuses to take on board suggestions to improve, then he will listen and stay on his toes. But if his job is secure regardless, then he’ll continue to do whatever he wants, and more and more be driven by self-interest.

So if Chua wants a government that will listen, he has to accept an antagonistic opposition that is capable of overthrowing the government at the next election. And for that, it means an opposition that is a significant force electorally, with proven parliamentary experience. To not want a strong opposition, yet want a government that will listen, is a pipe dream. One cannot have one’s cake and eat it.

* * * * *

Coming back to deadlock, the PAP’s scare-mongering is absolute rubbish, as I will explain here.

There are certain scenarios where deadlock is much more likely to happen. One is when the government does not have a majority in the legislature. Then the government may want something done, but the majority in the legislature will not go along with it.

This kind of situation very rarely arises in a Westminster-type parliamentary system that Singapore has, because under this system, if a party (or coalition of parties)  does not command a majority in parliament, it does not even get a chance to form the government.

Instead, such scenarios arise only when separate elections are held for the executive (usually the president) and the legislature. Voters may vote someone from Party A to the presidency, but do not give Party A a majority in parliament. Since in Singapore we do not vote separately for the executive (prime minister, in our case), it is not a scenario we need to worry about.

*

The second scenario is one that can happen in a Westminster-style system. A party obtains a clear majority in parliament (about 72 percent of seats in my diagram at left), and thus forms the government.

However, this party is internally divided into factions. Even ministers in the cabinet may belong to different factions.

Conflict may occur between factions, e.g. over budget allocations, promotions or policy ideas. This can lead to the feared paralysis.

You will quickly notice, I’m sure, that the paralysis is not the result of opposition parties being significantly represented in parliament. They have nothing to do with it.

In fact this is a scenario that most worries me about the post-Lee Kuan Yew era that is fast approaching, but I will leave it to another occasion to expand on this topic.

*

In a Westminster system, it is possible that after a general election, no party secures a simple majority in parliament. In that case, parties usually go into negotiations, emerging with a coalition government.

In my example at right, the main ruling party is in various shades of brown (it is divided into factions too), in coalition with two smaller parties (yellow and leaf green). Together, they have a slight majority in parliament and so get to form the government.

But, over certain issues, the coalition parties cannot agree. Or maybe it is two or more factions within the main party that cannot come to a joint position. Disagreement can occur both within the coalition cabinet as well as among its backbenchers.

Once again, opposition parties are not the ones causing the paralysis.

*

Even if the main ruling party is not split into factions, conflict can still arise with its coalition partners, as shown in diagram 4.

That said, many countries have done very well despite having coalition governments frequently. Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden are some of them. Yet, these countries surmount difficulties, and arguably provide good infrastructure and a good life for its citizens.

To say that serious conflict leading to deadlock can arise is not the same as saying they will arise.

*

In any case, none of the above scenarios are even remotely possible in the case of Singapore this coming general election. What can happen is either #5 or #6 below. Diagram 5 represents what I believe is the “wildly-optimistic” scenario, where opposition parties win about half the seats they contest, giving them about 40 percent of the seats in parliament.

The PAP still has a simple majority and is in a position to pass laws smoothly, using the party whip. What “deadlock” are we talking about?

What may happen, though, is that PAP backbenchers need to show up for parliamentary sessions more often. By my observation, parliament is often less than half-full for most sessions. If PAP backbenchers do not attend parliament, then when a vote is taken, the PAP may find itself without a majority and a bill is defeated. But why shouldn’t PAP backbenchers attend parliament regularly? Why haven’t they, in the past? Perhaps their holding a day job at the same time has something to do with it?

Diagram 6 represents what PAP would like this election to produce: the minimum nine opposition members of parliament, preferably all Non-constituency MPs. Naturally, there is no risk of deadlock  — or is there? Perhaps obscured within its supermajority, the PAP breaks into factions, like diagram 2 above?

But Diagram 6 represents a far greater danger: that of a supermajority giving itself a blank cheque to do whatever it wants with virtually no scrutiny. A small contingent of NCMPs (paid so little they can’t afford research assistants) cannot effectively hold the cabinet to account.

* * * * *

The “deadlock” argument is just a bogeyman. Under no plausible scenario is this election going to produce a hung parliament. Far more likely, this election is going to produce a supermajority again, and for the next five years, Singapore remains politically in the Third World, with all the abuses that connotes.

30 Responses to “Deadlock bogeyman”


  1. 1 Yan 21 April 2011 at 01:16

    Hi, Chua has stated that his letter has been heavily edited and twisted by ST, and that he does not oppose 2-party system. TODAY has also printed his original on the same day (http://comment.straitstimes.com/showthread.php?t=43687&page=3). Sorry I don’t have a link to TODAY’s version, but miyagi has it (http://miyagi.sg/2011/04/the-self-pwning-straits-forum).

    On a separate note, I like the diagrams. Very clear. Thanks.

  2. 3 Reader 21 April 2011 at 01:18

    http://wendright.blogspot.com/2011/04/it-aint-right.html

    Chua’s letter in the Straits Times is quite different from the same letter he submitted that is published in Today.

    • 4 yawningbread 21 April 2011 at 01:20

      The letter published in Today is so different (in phrasing, if not in ideas) from the one in the Straits Times, I do not think the ST version is an edit of the same letter. I think he sent two different letters to the newspapers.

    • 5 krawkster 21 April 2011 at 04:42

      If you read the comments to Chua’s ST Forum letter, he retracted his accusations of twisted editing. He did indeed send in two different letters.

      • 6 yawningbread 22 April 2011 at 11:12

        Just for the record, this is the letter that Chua submitted to Straits Times forum (before editing):

        I refer to the letter by Ms Indranee Rajah, “WP’s fictional First World Parliament”. I agree with many of her points raised, and many detractors of a two-party system are right in saying that it can lead to an inefficient system of government, where differences in ideology result in an impotent parliament. I personally have been a strong opponent of two-party systems as implemented in the west, but I feel that this is where Singaporeans need to define the system of demogracy they want by being selective of their MPs from both the government and the opposition and defining how we want our electoral system to operate in the best interest our country. It is not unthinkable that a two-party system can result in cooperation between the two parties to achieve the best result for Singapore if Singaporeans make it clear that is what they want from their political system.

        While it is undeniable that the government has done an amazing job in raising Singapore to the status of a first-world country in just a short space of 40 years and that do they continue to implement sound policies that are designed to ensure the economic engine continues to drive us forward, it is not possible to assume that the government can do no wrong and that all their policies will always result in benefit to the people.

        This scenario is even more plausible if a ‘group-think’ mentality emerges within the government, with no opposition voices to provide a different perspective. It is interesting to note that in the introduction of new candidates for the PAP, few of them felt that any of our policies needed review or change, despite many Singaporeans having recently raised numerous issues affecting our lives. For example, Mr Ang Wei Neng had recently remarked that it may not be possible to lower transport costs. This comment comes despite the cost of transportation being a huge gripe for many Singaporeans, and the transport companies making large profits each year. Does this suggest that, if elected, they will vote along party lines instead of what they personally believe to be in the best interest of their citizens? Or do they think that the government is doing a perfect job which has no room for improvement? Either way, both scenarios may have negative implications for
        the country. One example is how Mr Lim Boon Heng himself has said he had voted for the Integrated Resorts despite personally believing they might have negative social outcomes for Singapore.

        It is not desirable to have an antagonistic opposition whose main aim is only to prevent the functioning of government, I harbour hope that Singapore’s political system can evolve to one where the opposition serves to provide valuable inputs into policy in the interest of the people, and that input will be seriously considered by the government instead of being dismissed out-of-hand. Hopefully, we will make fact out of fiction, and develop our own version of a first-world parliament that the world will envy and learn from.

        Chua Sheng Yang

        Source: http://comment.straitstimes.com/showthread.php?t=43687&page=7

  3. 7 PJ Thum 21 April 2011 at 03:25

    Not to mention, of course, that one of Singapore’s most legislatively productive periods was from 1955-59, when we had a minority coalition government. In this period, legislation for the CPF, HDB, bilingual education, labour rights, and so on, were all passed. These policies have arguably been the most important in shaping independent Singapore, and many of them were the result of negotiation between the political parties.

    • 8 prettyplace 21 April 2011 at 14:11

      Your points here must be the most potent.
      It must be highlighted further to show that productive parliament did exist with opposition members holding voting seats.

      Thank You. The deadlock arugement is one set on false premeise, it has to be shattered, not just with assumptions but evidence.

  4. 9 Sprechen Sie Singlisch? 21 April 2011 at 04:47

    Hi Alex,
    great job hilighting the continuum of democratic systems and how deadlocks are pretty rare in ours.

    Unfortunately, this still does resolve the issue of democracies catering only to needs of the electorate in the short term (single election cycle) but doing little to tackle their long term needs. Often, those long term needs run counter to those of the short term. E.g. a lack of counter cyclic reserves to counter dips during the occasional recession in western nations or the constant skimping on investments like education to reduce taxes.

    Hsien Loong allured to this in his speech towards the end and I must admit that Singapore and the PAP has so far been pretty good at following through on long term plans. Often in a fairly autocratic manner.

    On the other hand, this point will be moot if the PAP does splinter in a post-LKY age.

    • 10 yawningbread 21 April 2011 at 09:36

      If the PAP splinters into separate parties that compete with each other at elections, it’s not so bad. Voters decide which group succeeds and which does not. The great (and more likely) danger is when the PAP remains nominally a single party but contains factions (you can see seeds of that already) that fight it out behind the scenes, and so voters don’t get to have their say. There is an incentive to stay nominally a single party; this way, a faction needs only to fight other factions, and not fight other parties. The benefit system or spoils (salaries, directorships) that accrue to PAP people stays intact by mutual agreement among factions.

      The trouble is: what determines success of one faction over another? Not the interest of the people, because the people have no say. More likely, it would be things like money, networks and sheer bloody-mindedness. The opacity of a dominant party with internal factions is worse than a multi-party electoral landscape with no majority party.

  5. 11 Tanky 21 April 2011 at 09:42

    Great article!
    Look no further than Japan and you will see a government deadlock for years not due to 2 party system (or multi-party) but due largely to political in-fighting of the LDP (it ruled continuously for 38 years). Japan has a multi-seat constituency system (perhaps Singapore learnt from the best?) and that system has led to multi-factions within the LDP. In every elections, the horse trading process within the LDP is closely watched for political observers. Each faction fight to have it’s members representing the LDP in the constituencies. In the post LKY era, it is possible that the PAP will get into similar situation (or are we already in it?). Imagine PAP has factions A, B and C. And think about, say, Tampines GRC, a 5 member GRC. Now, depending on the strength of the factions, the number of candidates from each faction will be determined. We may also see cross GRC horse-trading. After the elections, depending on the number of elected MPs, the factions will be fighting for Ministerial posts. Government deadlock will be more frequent once the multi-factions PAP is entrenched. Currying favour with the civil servants and the big businesses (read GLCs) will become more obvious (as can be seen in Japan, namely the governing Triad). — this is not the future we want to see

  6. 12 Gard 21 April 2011 at 09:50

    Those diagrams are alien to the monarchy, with its superstructures of emperor dowagers and powerful eunuchs. Compared to India’s democracy, China’s single party rule has raised millions off poverty. Japan’s democracy produced more Prime Ministers than GDP growth. Hong Kong isn’t a true democracy; but it still enjoys economic success.

    So PAP did the pragmatic thing: it examines examples of ‘successful’ governments throughout history and drill down to the simple conclusion: most people seldom care about things outside their circle of influence. Successful government meets the needs within the circle. Successful people expand the circle, however (i.e., higher aspirations). Can the capabilities of the government grow as fast as the circle?

    So, why don’t we control the expansion of the circle, ask the PAP? You have your housing policy to lock down liquidity, education and media policy to highlight dangers and uncertainty ‘out there.’

    Hong Kong? It laughs and says, the role of the government is to be as small and unobtrusive as possible. We encourage you to take risks, reward you to take risks and don’t condemn you for failing – because by expanding your circle, you are more likely to be able to meet your own needs.

    In Hong Kong’s non-democracy, minimum wage which goes against Hong Kong’s free-market doctrine is coming into law this year. However, the impending legislation did little to upshift its unemployment rate (ChannelNewsAsia, 19 Apr 2011, Hong Kong jobless rate falls to pre-crisis levels). In Singapore, ironically, “policies which would benefit the people cannot get passed.”

    • 13 Gard 22 April 2011 at 08:46

      To be less obtuse, I highlight one point:

      1) The democracy practised in Singapore (“the East Asian democracy”) vs what is in the diagrams.

      In examining Singapore, Korea and Japan, you would notice that there is a close relationship between government and business. Perhaps partly due to the need to ‘save face’, you have numerous ‘close-door’ meetings. The National Wages Council is one prominent example, where you have the representatives from the government, the union and the employers charting the employment and wage landscape for the foreseeable future.

      Do voters know what’s really being discussed in these close-door meetings?

      The deadlock that the Prime Minister said is not just political – it is economical.

      But unlike corporate boardroom meetings, the participants in political close-door meetings can, against convention, ‘air’ their views in public – and gain public support. The Minimum Wage issue in Hong Kong is an notable case example, where the union leaders took to the streets.

      The political scene with more opposition members pose a challenge to this ‘close-door’ relationships that have guided Singapore’s economic success.

      One of these ‘close-door’ relationship is that between the government and the mainstream media. What would happen if the media leaders were not agreeable with the incumbent’s position to its interest (such as censorship), and found the opposition more sympathetic?

      Thus I might argue, deadlock is very real, because of these close-door relationships that spilled outside the political arena. In some way, I can’t help but to wonder if the real powers and decisions are made in those close-door meetings.

      • 14 blacktryst 23 April 2011 at 01:19

        Gard, I refer to your arguments on the East Asian Democracy such as what is happening to Japan, Hong Kong and even Taiwan. The deadlock arguments applies even to European countries with mul;tiple parties. Prime example of that is Belgium who is still without an actual government for several months now. Their government collapsed due to the deadlock and fierce opposition by opposing Flemish and French speaking parties being unable to unite. Now in terms of economic outlook, yes that is a potent fear because it can cause economic instability. Standard & Poor has downgraded the United States AAA rating because of the bickering between the Republican and Democrat party over the budget. So the PAP and every proponent of the deadlock bogeyman argument is ina way correct because their arguments has a truth in it.
        But in response, the Europeans, Japanese, Taiwanese all enjoy one thing above all else even with the political deadlock. Choice and diversity of representation by political leaders or Members of parliament that they elect. That is the key issue here. For far too long, Singapore’s ruling elite has treated Singapore not as a Country but as a Corporation where the mantra is cut costs, increase efficiency and productivity and raise profits which the PAP government has been remarkably successful. However at the cost of social support and welfare. We the citizens are suffering from their policies. Of course, we do wish to have the status quo remain unchanged whereby our economy remains strong but we the citizens do need extra help to cope with the see sawing of economic fortunes. As a nation, I do feel we have started to mature in terms of whast we want and desire from our homeland. And we are starting to desire to have our own voice and our own choice in charting the future of Singapore and not just rely blindly on elites that claims to have the best interest of Singaporeans. After all, that same desire to chart our own course was what prompted us to declare independence from the British even though we could have just relied on the British as a crown colony.

      • 15 Gard 23 April 2011 at 18:18

        To blacktryst

        I agree with your point, but Alex’s article highlights how having more opposition party members in parliament does not create the deadlock in the typical Westminster-style system.

        My point is, however, deadlock can happen outside the visible political structures, because of close door arrangements that deal with important national agenda – the use of persuasion instead of law to effect change.

        When the opposition starts to occupy 20-30 seats out of 80 seats, the balance of power at those boardroom negotiations inevitably changes. The relationship between mainstream media and the monarchy is one example that will be tested when Dr Chee, Mr Low and Jeyaretnam become more vocal and confident in front of the press because of greater voter support behind them.

    • 16 blacktryst 24 April 2011 at 00:39

      I like how you refer to Singapore’s current form of government as the Monarchy. In a way, it is true.
      Deadlock can always occur in closed door or open door policies and as you mentioned, even in Democratic countries, there is always some form of closed door negotiations that goes on to hammer out deals and such. You however point out that the dynamics between the mainstream press and the opposition parties may change and prevent deadlocks if they get more seats. Well, that takes time. The mainstream press is still tightly controlled by the Monarchy and is not certain if they will feature opposition parties side of the story well enough to get their point across. Still, even if there is a real threat of deadlock happening, again I reiterate my point, that still demonstrates the fact that democracy is all about representing differing views and that democracy as a form of government will never be as efficient in passing laws and changing legislation beause of it very inherent nature. Yet that is something that our current political climate lacks and thats why the voice of the people are not being heard beause the laws just get rammed through parliament without debate. So whether with greater oppositiion seats in parliament will create more deadlocks and whether they have means to break that impasse is relevant but ultimately, for now that is a moot point. The point now in this Current election is for the opposition parties to get more seats so ultimately the electorate wins in having greater representation of views.

      • 17 Gard 24 April 2011 at 20:32

        If it is for the electorate to have greater representation of views, then the NCMP candidacy already offers that. The Monarchy has quite generously raised the number of NCMP seats.

        There must be something more problematic about having more opposition candidates elected into parliament, right?

        As I have suggested, the Monarchy is as interested in democracy as those generals in Myanmar want to hold elections. Would you call Myanmar a democracy because it has elections?

        Continuing to see Singapore as a democracy (as understood in the West) is a questionable assumption to build subsequent arguments.

        Seeing Singapore as Monarchy is a means to look at things at a different angle. I suspected that the incumbent saw the flaws of democracy and the advantages of monarchy (“the able ruler supported by efficient bureaucrats”), and had sought to combine the two. Although ‘laws are rammed through parliament without debate’ (perhaps because they have all taken place in closed door?), we have, for a good while, a government that is admired by our Southeast Asian neighbours. Try reading comments in Philippines newspapers that concern Singapore, for instance.

  7. 18 Alan Wong 21 April 2011 at 10:46

    So at the end of the day, it is actually the spoils that matter most to our PAP leaders and the power that comes with it. There is really no difference whether our govt is not as corrupt as countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines, Thailand, Taiwan, etc.

    The greatest regret must be that our current PM does not even have half your brains. All this talk about serving the people’s interests FIRST and being HUMBLE to them is just simply BULLSHIT, period.

  8. 19 Mike 21 April 2011 at 14:25

    A larger opposition can defeat, or get altered, legislation even without government splits or a filibuster (as in the US Congress) by virtue of the threat of defeat for the government at the next election. And it cuts both ways: the ruling party can increase its majority next time.

    If this causes ‘inefficiency’, never mind. Government policies may not get enacted or be delayed due to opposition blocking, true, but since parliament as a whole reflects the will of the people (although gerrymanders and other practices can distort this), by definition this is how it should be. If parliament truly reflects the people’s will, the legislators – government and opposition – must agree on programs that the people want and need. Take time, consider carefully, argue forcefully, be subject to criticism. If an Opposition as a standby Government in case the PAP falters is the insurance policy, this Opposition as opposition is the interest-bearing deposit that is improving even while you sleep.

    Governments-to-be don’t pre-publish during the campaign the exact wording of the legislation they intend to enact (then elections would be parliament sittings and all electors would be MPs) and contingencies will also arise post-election. They have policies but the detailed application of these has to be debated, a function we delegate to the legislature as a whole (as opposed to administration in the hands of the government). The debate needs to be public (in parliament) and not private (in cabinet).

    Ultimately, the only thing that will keep them on their toes is the ability to “throw the bums out” if they are no good.

  9. 20 reservist_cpl 21 April 2011 at 15:05

    One other point – deadlock can arise when the elected president is against parliament on issues for which he has discretion.

    And the EP post was created by the PAP.

  10. 21 Redd 21 April 2011 at 15:46

    Thanks for this article. The analyses you have done is detailed and nicely broken down.

    If you can and have the time, can I humbly suggest you expand on Scenarios 5 & 6 in more detail for the benefit of your readers, since they are most relevant to Singapore’s case?

    In my opinion, the effectiveness of the PAP’s rhetoric of Deadlock in Parliament rests on the inability of many Singaporeans to understand the relationship between the Cabinet and Parliament, and the differences between the Constitution, basic law and legislation. This is partly due to the political apathy and the misinformation (deliberate or otherwise) by the media. Hence, you can have the MP write this: “They will act as a bloc to bargain with the Government. They will also seek to block constitutional amendments – thereby again preventing effective governance” and not draw any comments on the fact that the Constitution should not be amended at the whims and fancy of the ruling party as it is supposed to protect the people!

  11. 22 budamax1952 21 April 2011 at 16:28

    yawning bread(21st april, 0936)–///..what determines success of one faction over another?…because the people have no say///

    When the PAP, inevitably, breaks up into factions, this is going to weaken the papies very badly.
    When this happens the opposition parties will be the greatest winners, because the best politicians would want to join up with the opposition parties and nobody(or very few) would want to join the traitorous papies who have let the nation down very badly.

    Now, when the electorate sees all these happenning, inevitably they are going to, sooner or later, reject the hated papies firmly and, optimistically, we can look forward to a ‘first world parliament’ within a decade or two. THE PEOPLE WILL HAVE A LOT TO SAY where we end up in our political evolution process, IMHO.

  12. 23 raymond 21 April 2011 at 16:32

    [quote]Far more likely, this election is going to produce a supermajority again, and for the next five years, Singapore remains politically in the Third World, with aall the abuses that connotes.[/quote]

    Yes, it would be another disappointment.

    Many Singaporeans complain a lot, but the truth is their lives are quite comfortable. Many can afford a car, some two. And I am talking about ordinary Singaporeans. Politics is the last last thing in their minds.

    The ones that are inclined to cast the opposition a vote are the minority. This group is likely to attend opposition rallies, wherever they are held. Don’t be misled by the huge crowds at Hougang or any opposition rally – I suspect the crowd made up of the same groups of people.

    The majority (66.6%) don’t attend rallies – whether PAP’s or opposition. And these are the ones that happily give their votes to the PAP.

    So yes, it’s gonna to be a landslide win for the PAP yet again.

  13. 24 Adam Lee 22 April 2011 at 01:58

    Hi,

    Thank you for this piece.

    I enjoyed reading your article, and find your insights useful in equipping me with an alternative point of view, which is especially vital since I’ve been apolitical a large part of my life.

    I’m not sure if my question makes sense, but in the name of ask-when-in-doubt and under the shield of there’s-no-such-thing-as-a-stupid question, I’d like to clarify about the diagrams you had painstakingly come up with.

    Let’s take diagram 3.

    You wrote:

    [Quote] But, over certain issues, the coalition parties cannot agree. Or maybe it is two or more factions within the main party that cannot come to a joint position. Disagreement can occur both within the coalition cabinet as well as among its backbenchers. Once again, opposition parties are not the ones causing the paralysis.[Quote ends]

    The scenario of the coalition government in the above example — can I assume it comprises the ruling PAP as well as various opposition parties? If that’s the case, would one still view the half of the coalition government as opposition?

    • 25 yawningbread 22 April 2011 at 02:10

      No. The parties that make up the coalition would constitute the “governing coalition”, or the “governing parties”. The term “opposition” would still mean the parties that have no share of the government. The word “government” is reserved for the executive+the civil service; it generally does not include any part of the legislature.

  14. 26 blacktryst 22 April 2011 at 03:25

    Any democracy by effect is not efficient. The Greeks knows that. The Romans knows that. Europe and North America knows that. Even India, the largest democracy in the world knows that. But the opposite and what is happening in other countries is exactly the sort of turmoil we wished to avoid, countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan e.t.c
    If the PAP government is thinking they like to hold on to the absolute mandate on governance like they have now, we risk becoming those same countries that faces riots and revolts down the road. Granted, the PAP government is not as corrupt nor as totalitaristic as those countries but we have manu similarities as those countries. Syria has the emergency laws in place for 40 years. We have that same emergency law as well since the race riots. Egypt has a ruling party that wins every election, we have that here too. Corruption is not rampant (thank god) in Singapore but the underlying nepotism is there as well. Lee dynasty anyone? Temasek Holdings as another example? So yes, multi party system is not the most efficient form of goernment out there but it represents a greater diversitry of views by the populace and that SHOULD be the goal we should achieve in our own brand of democracy in Singapore.

  15. 27 dolphin81 24 April 2011 at 14:58

    THe PAP is just using scare tectics.

    All of us know PAP has its core supporters. From past elections, this group should constitute at least 50% of the electorate.

    One-sided contests (eg 80% vs 20%) are unlikely to take place. Therefore the PAP support is evenly spread out.

    Therefore it is almost statistically impossible for the PAP not to be able to win a simple majority (44 out of 87 seats)

    The only time should the PAP lose a simple majority is when its core supporters turn to the opp.

    Should this occur, the PAP deserves to lose.

  16. 28 AnT 25 April 2011 at 00:51

    Pardon the simplicity of my analysis.

    What do you do to a apple rotten to the core and is of no longer of any service to the people?

    In fact, if a person continues consuming it, you know that poisoning soon follows. Much as this analogy sound far fetched to some, imagine the rampant inflation, ever increasing cost of living and property prices spiralling upwards. It certainly does make the country look like another Big Apple, even if it is only a bad Oriental copy, but otherwise equally shiny on the outside but wormy on the inside. That’s why you get songs regularly in praise of that city to make people believe they are living it up there when anybody who has been there and understands it well knows it only serves only the rich and influential strata of society. The rest are treated like human garbage, to use their own terms.

    So no matter how you cut the apple and try to diagnose some saving grace for it, it remains a self serving rotten apple.

    The wise would just dispense with it. Unfortunately the mentality of rags to riches generation would try to salvage parts of it to eat and end up with a bigger medical bill, certainly not covered by what ever medi savings, that could have instead paid for many a good apple.

  17. 29 bourgeousie 27 April 2011 at 14:10

    True. There can be wasteful competition if each party is thinking of ‘fixing’ the other. However, this ‘fixing’ may be a sign of balancing the interests of society. And a political party that is paid MILLIONS a year should be able to handle some challenge if they are worth any salt, eh?

    If for example, I am a middle class worker, I would want my interests represented by a party with good fresh young minds who are intelligent and wise in the ways of the world. Not extra young dummies or old bogeymen who are incapable of empathizing with the poor or disadvantaged in society. Sadly, this society has become the complete of what PAP had promised. A swiss standard of living is only a russian standard. And our own Singaporeans are suffering only for the minority who get fat pay and wish to keep the rest working for their retirement longer. It is really obscene to use ‘competition’ to scare PAP supporters. Because competition is healthy, and in Singapore’s case, very.

    All does not seem well within PAP, there seem to be cracks already. I think very soon they will crack up and ‘inter-compete’ that will be even worse right? CIVIL riot within PAP. How about that.

    The subjugation of the majority for the sake of the minority has led to major entrenchment. Only when we create a significant alternative voice may we progress as a nation. Otherwise, trains will just get more packed, our air gets more polluted with construction, costs of living increased, jobs robbed by foreigners.

  18. 30 Gazebo 28 April 2011 at 21:16

    overheard at NSP rally: its not a problem if a Minister (SM Goh in this case) is voted out… he can be an NCMP.

    LOL! its true! after all, in the words of the PM himself, the NCMP has full speaking rights yada yada, right?

    LOL!


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