Singapore— Writing for The New Indian Express, Shankari Sundararaman, a professor at the School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi, has called the victory of the Workers’ Party (WP) in the General Election last month as a ‘credible victory’ because ‘it represents the working-class sections of Singaporean society.
This is particularly relevant, Dr Sundararaman writes, given the severe economic downturn all over the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The professor called the results of the GE, which saw the opposition win four new seats in Parliament for the WP and gain two new Non-Constituent Members of Parliament (NCMPs) for the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), who had done very well at West Coast GRC, a ‘wake-up call’ for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), even as it retained the vast majority of parliamentary seats.
The gains for the opposition came as a shock to many, as it defied the conventional wisdom that in times of crisis, people will cling steadfastly to existing power structures. And the crisis Singapore is facing is considerable not only in terms of the pandemic, but even more so on the economic front, as the country’s GDP has decreased by 41 percent in the worst recession Singapore is facing since 2008, during the global financial crisis.
According to Dr Sundararaman, “Significantly, in the context of the recent economic downturn, the WP’s seat gain is a credible victory as it represents the working-class sections of Singaporean society. The leader of the Workers’ Party, Pritam Singh, has been made leader of the opposition.
In the context of the political volatilities observed across several democracies, this small victory of the Worker’s Party may not seem that big. However, at a time when the center-right has claimed its legitimacy across several countries and given Singapore’s political history, this is no small feat.”
The professor also mentioned the role that the family dynamics between the two sons of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, played during the 2020 election. The rift between older son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings Dr Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang is well known, but the younger son, without contesting in the election, joined the fray by backing former PAP MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who had formed the PSP in 2019.
Dr Sundararaman noted that Dr Tan and Lee Hsien Yang both “articulated the opinion that the PAP, as the single dominant party in Singapore, was not capable of leading the country forward given the political complacency associated with repeated incumbency.”
She added, “The call for change was focused on the lack of transparency in the system and highlighted the opaqueness that political dominance by one party leads to, especially in the absence of credible checks and balances.”
Furthermore, the opposing positions of the two sons of “Lee Kuan Yew, also highlighted the divisiveness in the political process even within the same family.”
On Nomination Day, which kicked off the campaign period for the GE, Lee Hsien Yang wrote in a Facebook post, “I have chosen not to stand for political office because I believe Singapore does not need another Lee”.
He added that political leadership in Singapore needs to be much more than about one family or one man, writing, “the empirical evidence shows that dynastic politics causes bad government”. —/TISG
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