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A thrilling review of NUS academic’s ‘Is the People’s Action Party Here to Stay?’

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Singapore— Curious to find the answer posed by the title of a new book, Is the People’s Action Party Here to Stay?Analysing the Resilience of the One-Party Dominant State in Singapore published last month by Dr Bilveer Singh, Bertha Henson asked the author if the country’s ruling party could prepare for its own obsolescence?

Ms Henson went straight to the end of the book to ponder on Dr Singh’s answer: “Would it not be a duty and obligation for the one-party dominant state to think of Singapore and its interests to prepare an alternative government to continue administering the Republic in the best interest of its people?’’

In the interview, Dr Singh told Henson for the sake of the welfare of the country, PAP should have an exit strategy, “a contingency plan” instead of waiting for it to implode due to a division among its ranks that would make space for a power-grab from the opposition or the possibility of a sudden electoral defeat.

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Bilveer Singh teaches Political Science at National University of Singapore. According to his profile on the university’s website, Dr Singh teaches on the Government and Politics of Singapore at NUS, and his main research interest is in International Relations and Comparative Politics.

Dr Singh apparently believes that one-party states do not have longevity, and therefore must prepare for the future.

“Clearly, Dr Singh, who lectures political science at the National University of Singapore, believes that the PAP should stay on—for a myriad of reasons, including an opposition that is unprepared and has no desire to form the government in the near future. Any erosion of authority should be—and more likely to be—a gradual evolution than revolution,” Henson writes.

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The journalist calls the book “an examination of the political culture that the PAP has engendered over the past 50 years” and says that it’s a good text for students since it provides a history of politics in Singapore. It goes all the way up to the current situation, with the Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat now assuming the Deputy Prime Minister’s position, as well as the entrance of the two newest political parties — People’s Voice Party and Progress Singapore Party—into the arena.

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Interestingly, Dr Singh writes that Singaporeans see the ruling party as “a long-term governing compact that has successfully delivered political, economic and social goods since 1959.’’

Only an enormous scandal, such as what happened with Malaysia’s 1MDB, or “severe corruption and mismanagement and a splintered, fractious ruling party” could bring down PAP, according to the academic.

Ms Henson, however, expressed the desire for the author to have expounded more on what factors could either increase or decrease the ruling party’s dominance.

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How will the PAP capitalise on the legacy of its founding father, the late Lee Kuan Yew, as a reason for its continued dominance? While Mr Lee’s passing had an effect on boosting the PAP’s votes, will there come a time when a generation of Singaporeans look more at what the PAP can do now, rather than its track record, when they vote>, he asks.

He says as for the current and older generations, will they agree with the Progress Singapore Party, led by ex-PAP member Tan Cheng Bock, which appears to be campaigning on how the PAP has “lost its way’?

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“Is the PAP’s network, which extends beyond government to the bureaucracy (through the Civil Service and statutory boards), workers (through the National Trades Union Congress), to community groups (through the People’s Association), to the economic sphere (through Government-linked companies) and the military, a boon or bane to voters? Or is it another reason for the voters to acquiesce to the status quo because sSingapore simply cannot afford a plural political system?

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“Will social media play a bigger part in raising the political consciousness of Singaporeans, such as placing more importance on non-material goods, such as individual freedoms and human rights? Or will those who are lagging economically magnify their material grievances to some effect

“Will the PAP rank-and-file start to demand more say in the selection of its leaders or is the PAP leadership convinced that its cadre approach will hold despite a better-educated base?”/ TISG

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