Singapore — Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has shared an excerpt from a webinar entitled “Singapore’s GE2020: The Real Watershed Election?” featuring observations about the ruling People’s Action Party in light of the recent polls.
Mr Lee took to Facebook on Sunday (Sept 13) to highlight the “interesting observations” made by Associate Professor Kenneth Paul Tan, a senior faculty member at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
A/Prof Tan begins by noting how the terms “watershed” and “soul-searching” are often used when referring to elections in the country. “The PAP often claims to do a lot of this soul-searching after elections, especially those elections where the results have not been so favourable.”
In GE2020, the PAP saw an 8.7-point swing in votes, winning 61.24 per cent compared to the 69.9 per cent in the 2015 polls. In addition, it lost the battle with the Workers’ Party for the newly-formed Sengkang GRC.
“The PAP may even gesture at remaking or re-energising the party, but it is in many respects incapable of reforming itself today,” said A/Prof Tan noting how entrenched certain characteristics of the party had become due to the length of time it has stayed in power.
“It has been entrenched in the form of an elite entitlement defensive mindset, prickly personality and a dogmatic ideology that still dares to call themselves pragmatic.”
He also touched on PAP Members of Parliament who represent diversity within the party, yet face “glass ceilings and an intricate web of OB (out-of-bounds) markers” which curtail their full policy and political ambitions towards more progressive agendas.
“But I think that their inclusion, if this is not simply a basic attempt at cooptation, maybe a little more a display to simulate diversity, inclusiveness and maybe win over some electoral support at the margins.”
Alongside the “elite fragmentation or elite fracture” happening within the PAP, A/Prof Tan deduced the possibility of an “elite implosion”.
He perceives the PAP to have become “decadent” and reached the “zenith” or pinnacle of its governance, and thus, “utterly exhausted” by its achievements. “And this exhaustion points above all to an absence to originality, of new and exciting ideas; the absence of which means it’s very difficult to galvanise and to motivate Singaporeans for the future.”
“So the PAP government seems instead to be self-referentially tethered to its own history.” The giants of its own past have infantilised the party, he said.
A/Prof Tan added: “I look at elections and certainly GE2020 not as the cause of change, certainly not the cause of political change in Singapore, but I see them as a reflection of a state of decline, the decline of a larger system and the PAP at the heart of this system.”
Mr Tan will be taking up a tenured professorship at the Hong Kong Baptist University beginning Jan 2021. The webinar he featured in included other speakers such as Associate Professor Michael Barr from Flinders University, Associate Professor Terence Lee from Murdoch University and Professor Lily Zubaidah Rahim from Monash University. The event was co-hosted by the Malaysia and Singapore Society of Australia (MASSA) and published on Sept 11.
Watch the full excerpt below:
Kenneth Paul Tan is a senior faculty member at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He makes some interesting observations in this video.