Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s comments that it is neither wise nor workable for the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government to “purposely” let the opposition grow bigger when most of the population supports the PAP has drawn flak from netizens.
According to the Straits Times, the head of government made the comments at a recent dialogue when he was asked whether the Singapore political system could possibly become a proportional representation system, in which parties can gain seats in proportion to the number of votes they receive at the ballots.
PM Lee shared that a system where one party deliberately cuts back so that “somebody else can grow bigger” will shortchange voters. Adding that it is difficult enough to build a strong team of leaders in a small nation like Singapore, the PM opined that the country would be shortchanged if, for example, he asked three minister to switch camps just so the opposition could have a boost.
One solution to holding the ruling party accountable instead of resorting to a proportional representation system is the Non-Constituency MP scheme, according to PM Lee. The scheme, which ensures that at least 12 best-performing election losers are appointed as MPs, can work if the right 12 NCMPs are appointed as “they will be able to hold the Government to account…and then in the next election, they will win more.”
He added: “If you don’t have the right team, you can have 20, 30, because of proportional representation, and it will not be of help.”
The PM further compared a political system that makes life easier for opposition parties to a safety net that protects performers: “The more you have a safety net for the performer, the more dangerous the stunts the performer will do. Because there is no risk, so you will push further.”
Explaining that the current multi-party democratic system here was not especially implemented so that one party could become dominant, the PM attributed the ruling party’s dominance to one that came over time: “It started out with very rambunctious parties… and it became like this through a series of accidents of history, as well as the effort by the PAP in the early years to stretch out and become a national movement.”
Noting that the PAP won just 3 out of 25 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly in 1955 and that one of the three elected was his father, Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, PM Lee added: “I think the colonial government was fully held to account. Today, they don’t have such a person in the opposition.”
These remarks have drawn flak from netizens who have opined that the PM does not need to “purposefully” let the opposition grow – he just should level the playing field so that opposition parties have a better chance at canvassing for votes: