Singapore — In the light of remarks by leaders of the People’s Action Party (PAP) during its biennial conference last weekend, Workers’ Party MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) has asked: “Why should we be afraid of more political competition?… Is a one-party dominant system definitely superior?”
In a Facebook post on Monday (Nov 9), Mr Perera referred to the todayonline.com report, “PAP leaders call on activists to find new ways to win hearts and minds, while ‘vigorously’ defending party’s beliefs”.
PAP cadres were addressed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in its first conference after the General Election this year, which saw the opposition making considerable gains.
Mr Heng, acknowledging the desire of Singaporeans for greater political diversity and more checks and balances, urged the party to recruit new members from a wide swathe of society. He said: “As a broad tent that occupies the middle ground, the PAP can better organise ourselves to champion the concerns of various groups.”
However, he added that opposition parties may endeavour to deny the PAP a two-thirds parliamentary majority, and said that sharper contestation could lead to unstable and divided politics. Singapore, he said, is not immune to the pressures of polarisation.
Mr Perera, commenting on Mr Heng’s remarks, asked: “Why should we be afraid of more political competition? Is a one-party dominant system definitely superior?”
He added: “More competitive politics does not necessarily lead to divisive politics. Nor does one-party dominant politics necessarily lead to better outcomes.”
Mr Perera warned against the dangers of having an entrenched dominant party as this could lead the country to “slide into complacency, opportunism and vindictive politics, attacking those who might endanger that one party’s dominance, or the narrative it seeks to perpetrate”.
On the contrary, he wrote that greater competition could be beneficial to Singapore. “And competitive politics can breed better outcomes, by giving all parties a strong incentive to do better by the people, or face irrelevance.”
Lest voters become frightened by the idea of sharper contestation, he added that this is not a bad thing, and neither is a more mature electorate that expects more from its elected officials.
What would guard against polarisation would be “strong institutions”, such as “an independent and non-partisan civil service, a strong civil society and a free, fair and responsible media landscape”.
More than anything else, the WP MP advocated forward steps in Singapore’s citizenry and even its culture.
“Above all, we need a politically educated and involved citizenry and a public culture of putting Country first among Singaporeans. As Singapore’s politics evolves, let’s work as one people to strengthen these things,” he said. /TISG
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